Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation policy establishes the conditions under which Canada is prepared to consider undertaking nuclear cooperation with selected partner countries.
Canada’s commitment to facilitating peaceful nuclear cooperation stems from the three-part bargain that is fundamental to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). First, non-nuclear-weapon State Parties to the NPT (i.e. any state other than the US, UK, France, China and Russia) agreed not to acquire or manufacture nuclear weapons; second, the five Nuclear Weapon States committed to pursue nuclear disarmament negotiations; third, Non-nuclear Weapon States have the right to enjoy the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. States that possess peaceful nuclear expertise are committed to assist other states in this endeavour. Canada has the right to establish the conditions under which it will permit international nuclear cooperation in accordance with its NPT commitments to ensure the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The Government of Canada tightly regulates the export of nuclear items in order to ensure that such items are exported only to countries which meet Canada’s stringent non-proliferation requirements. Each export of nuclear and nuclear-related dual use items requires the issuance of an export permit by DFAIT pursuant to the provisions of the Export and Import Permits Act, and a licence by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission pursuant to the provisions of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. A permit and licence are issued only when the responsible officials are satisfied that the proposed export meets all of Canada’s stringent nuclear non-proliferation requirements.
Before Canada will consider nuclear cooperation with any non-nuclear-weapon State, that state must make a legally binding commitment to nuclear non-proliferation by becoming a party to the NPT or an equivalent international legally binding agreement and accepting the application of full-scope safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on all of its current and future nuclear activities.
In addition, any country wishing to enter into nuclear cooperation with Canada must conclude a legally-binding bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) which includes:
assurances that Canadian nuclear exports will be used only for peaceful,non-explosive end-uses;
Canadian control over any Canadian items subject to the NCA that are re-transferred to a third party;
Canadian control over the reprocessing of any Canadian spent nuclear fuel;
Canadian control over the storage and subsequent use of any separated plutonium;
Canadian control over the high enrichment of Canadian uranium and the subsequent storage and use of the highly enriched uranium;
implementation of bilateral safeguards in the event that IAEA safeguards are unable to be applied;
assurances that Canadian nuclear items will be subject to adequate physical protection measures to ensure that they are not stolen or otherwise misused.
The provisions of NCAs apply to items directly or indirectly exported from Canada. They also apply to non-Canadian equipment or nuclear material used in conjunction with Canadian nuclear items and to equipment manufactured on the basis of technology provided by Canada or through “reverse engineering” of such technology.
A Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) is a bilateral treaty which provides the framework for cooperation between Canada and another country in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including nuclear trade and collaboration.
While an NCA itself does not directly lead to any environmental impacts, a Detailed Analysis of Canada’s approach to current and future NCAs was conducted in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on Environmental Assessment of Policies, Plans, and Program proposals. The Detailed Analysis has identified potential positive environmental effects of nuclear trade and collaboration, which include the development of clean, reliable nuclear energy technologies, the production of electricity without the generation of green house gases (GHG) emissions, and the supply of fresh water. Should environmental regulations and measures not be respected, potential negative environmental impacts related to the development of nuclear energy would include the mismanagement of radioactive waste, exposure of the public and workers to higher doses of radiation, and the potential for nuclear accidents resulting in the release of harmful radiation.
Before Canada engages in nuclear cooperation with a new partner country, it will take into account environmental considerations, especially the partner country's capacity to enforce environmental standards and commitment to respect its international environmental obligations. Canada will ensure that nuclear projects within Canada are subject to environmental assessments in order to mitigate any negative environmental impact that may arise from such projects. In addition, Canadian nuclear industry has and will continue to collaborate with its overseas counterparts in the preparation of environmental assessments for nuclear projects abroad.
As Canada pursues NCAs with new partners, it will ensure that any cooperation undertaken shall be in accordance with the laws, regulations and policies in force in their respective jurisdictions. Should the opportunity arise, Canada and the partner country can also decide to collaborate on safety, environmental and regulatory aspects of the production of nuclear energy. Finally, Canada will continue to work to improve its nuclear technology designs, and work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and bilateral partners in promoting higher levels of safe, reliable, and environmentally friendly nuclear generation.