New rules in Canada for emergency preparation

14 October 2014

Canadian nuclear safety regulators have updated regulations for the country's nuclear power plant operators to prepare for and manage emergency situations.

The updates took around a year to draft and came in light of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi three years ago that affected a large part of Japan's Fukushima prefecture by the evacuation of areas near the plant, then by the release of radiation, and still through ongoing evacuation and public distrust.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) said, "The new regulatory documents address lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident and incorporate international post-Fukushima best practices and guidance for use by the current and future Canadian licensees." The regulations apply to 'Class 1' nuclear facilities - a category which includes uranium mines and mills, although the requirements for the different kinds of facilities vary accordingly.

The CNSC requires that nuclear plant operators are prepared to protect the public, workers and the environment in case of a nuclear incident or accident and the new regulations have brought some extra requirements.

Nuclear power plant operators are now required to protect workers using "hardened facilities" on site, which the CNSC said should be able to withstand hazards such as tornados, snow or ice while maintaining ventilation and radiation protection to allow workers to continue to operate the plant. Backup power to emergency response facilities must last for at least 72 hours.

For the public, plant operators need to ensure they communicate with local response agencies and collaborate with them to provide residents with "useful information on how they should prepare, what they should expect and how they should respond to an emergency at a nuclear facility," said CNSC. Documents should be updated every year and supplied to every household.

The primary radiological risk to the public in case of release of radioactivity during reactor accident is that radioactive iodine-131 will be ingested by children and go on to raise their risk of thyroid cancer. This risk can be reduced greatly by the timely use of stable potassium iodide tablets, which prevent the uptake of the iodine-131. The new regulations will see local health and emergency management agencies stocking the pills at strategic locations within a planning zone of 50-80 kilometres around each plant so they can be distributed rapidly if needed.

Head of the CNSC Michael Binder said "The pre-distribution of [potassium-iodide] pills is just one of the many requirements established to protect people in the event of a nuclear emergency, no matter how improbable." He said the updated requirements further enhance nuclear safety and "ensure that licensees and Canadians are thoroughly prepared to respond to any scenario."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News