CNSC president should not report to the Minister of Natural Resources, according to IAEA guidance

Having the CNSC report through the Minister of Natural Resources who is charged with producing (and promoting) nuclear energy under the Nuclear Energy Act is not consistent with the IAEA’s guidance on “independence”.  

IAEA General Safety Guide No. GSG-12, Organization, Management and Staffing of the Regulatory Body for Safety says:

2.3  …the credibility of the regulatory body with the general public depends on whether the regulatory body is regarded as being independent from the organizations it regulates, as well as independent from other government agencies or industry groups that promote nuclear technologies.

The IAEA recommends that the CNSC’s independence from Parliament and government not be absolute:

2.6. Paragraph 2.8 of GSR Part 1 (Rev. 1) [2] states that:“To be effectively independent from undue influences on its decision making, the regulatory body: …Shall be free from any pressures associated with political circumstances or economic conditions, or pressures from government departments, authorized parties or other organizations”.  

2.7. The regulatory body should, however, be accountable to the government and to the general public with regard to effectively and efficiently fulfilling its mission to protect workers, the public and the environment…

More specifically, it is unacceptable that the CNSC’s funding requests come through the Minister of Natural Resources:

2.14. …Review and approval of the regulatory body’s budget should be performed only by governmental agencies that are effectively neutral in respect of the development, promotion or operation of facilities and conduct of activities. Such an approach provides additional assurance of the independence of the regulatory body 

Under the Nuclear Energy Act, the Minister of Natural Resources is Canada’s promoter of nuclear technologies:

Powers of Minister 10(1) The Minister may

(a) undertake or cause to be undertaken research and investigations with respect to nuclear energy;

(b) with the approval of the Governor in Council, utilize, cause to be utilized and prepare for the utilization of nuclear energy;

(c) with the approval of the Governor in Council, lease or, by purchase, requisition or expropriation, acquire or cause to be acquired nuclear substances and any mines, deposits or claims of nuclear substances and patent rights or certificates of supplementary protection issued under the Patent Act relating to nuclear energy and any works or property for production or preparation for production of, or for research or investigations with respect to, nuclear energy

The President of Canada’s nuclear regulatory body (CNSC) reports to the Minister of Natural Resources.  The Nuclear Safety and Control Act says

12(4) …the President shall make such reports to the Minister as the Minister may require concerning the general administration and management of the affairs of the Commission…

Hence, the Minister in charge of nuclear energy, including federal (AECL) properties for production and research of nuclear energy, is also in charge of the regulatory body that is supposed to protect workers, the public and the environment. 

This creates a lack of independence of the regulatory body. 

The Nuclear Safety and Control Act does allow for the President of the CNSC to report to a minister other than the Minister of Natural Resources.  From section 2, Definitions:

Minister means the Minister of Natural Resources or such member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada as the Governor in Council may designate as the Minister for the purposes of this Act.

A quick and cheap fix to CNSC’s lack of independence would be to designate the Minister of Environment and Climate Change as the “the Minister for the purposes of this Act”. 

That being said, both the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Energy Act are more than 23 years old and have never been reviewed by Parliament.  Such a review is long overdue.