Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy

Federal Government Responsibilities and Partners in Nuclear Energy
The International Atomic Energy Agency
Nuclear Cooperation Agreements

Federal Government Responsibilities and Partners in Nuclear Energy

The Canadian Government works to facilitate cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other international agreements. Within Canada, the Government conducts nuclear research and development (R&D), tightly regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials in Canada to protect health, safety, security and the environment, and strictly controls the export of nuclear items to ensure that they are exported only to countries that meet Canada’s domestic and international nuclear non-proliferation requirements.

Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD): DFATD promotes bilateral and multilateral nuclear cooperation and safety, and the implementation in Canada and abroad of key non-proliferation and disarmament agreements. It enhances security and well-being by promoting the peaceful and safe use of nuclear technologies and ensures compliance with international commitments such as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. It also assists in the development of relevant international law and guidance, such as conventions established under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group regime.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan): NRCan promotes the sustainable development and responsible use of Canada’s natural resources. It is responsible for ensuring the energy future for Canada through developing policies and programs which enhance the economic and environmental well-being of Canadians.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC): The CNSC, Canada’s nuclear regulator, is an independent agency of the Government of Canada that reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources. The mission of the CNSC is to regulate the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety, security and the environment and to respect Canada's international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The Nuclear Safety and Control Act, which established the CNSC in May 2000, provides a modern regulatory framework that mirrors the latest scientific knowledge in the areas of health, safety, security and environmental protection.

Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL): AECL is a Crown Corporation established in 1952 to develop peaceful applications of nuclear energy. Its mandate includes two distinct roles: a public policy role and a commercial role. Its public policy role includes: conducting nuclear research and development, producing medical isotopes, and the management of legacy and historic nuclear wastes. Most of its R&D activities are conducted at the Chalk River Laboratories, which houses the National Research Universal Reactor (NRU). With respect to its commercial role, AECL designs, develops, deploys and refurbishes nuclear reactor systems based on Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor technology (CANDU).

Health Canada (HC): HC plays a key role in protecting Canadians from the risk of radiation exposure. It is the lead federal department responsible for the Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan, and it is one of the key departments supporting the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Health Canada’s activities are managed by the Radiation Protection Bureau. It contributes to maintaining and improving the health of Canadians by investigating and managing the risks from natural and artificial sources of radiation.

Transport Canada (TC): TC’s role with respect to the nuclear sector is to promote public safety during the transportation of dangerous goods. The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Directorate is the leading source of regulation, information and advice on dangerous goods transport for the public, industry and government employees.

Industry Canada (IC): IC plays an important role in fostering the growth of Canadian businesses and in making Canada more competitive internationally. The growth of the Canadian nuclear energy industry is a responsibility of the Manufacturing and Processing Technologies Branch, which focuses on competitiveness, international trade, technology and investment.

National Research Council Canada (NRC): The NRC, a leading national science agency which falls within the portfolio of Industry Canada, operates the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre (CNBC) which relies on the NRU at the Chalk River Laboratories. The CNBC is used by universities, industry, government and foreign research institutions for advanced materials research.

While the federal government has important responsibilities relating to nuclear energy, the decision to invest in electric generation rests with the provinces. It is up to the provinces, in concert with the relevant provincial energy organizations/power utilities, to determine whether or not new nuclear power plants should be built. The Government of Canada views nuclear energy as an important component of a diversified energy mix. It has taken necessary measures to ensure the long term development of nuclear energy as a sustainable energy source in meeting our existing and future energy requirements. When properly managed, nuclear energy can contribute effectively and significantly to sustainable development objectives. The Canadian nuclear energy program is a very important component of Canada's economy and energy mix.

The International Atomic Energy Agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the world´s center of cooperation in the nuclear field and plays a critical nuclear non-proliferation role in administering safeguards pursuant to the NPT. It also provides technical assistance to developing countries and serves as a forum to promote consensus on nuclear safety and security norms.

Set up in 1957 as the world’s "Atoms for Peace" organization, the IAEA is an independent, intergovernmental organization in the United Nations system that works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies. This involves advancing and employing knowledge to tackle pressing worldwide challenges such as ensuring access to food, water, and energy, fighting poverty and disease, and adapting to climate change. The IAEA also works to maximize the safe operation of nuclear facilities that generate power, support industry, deliver health care and serve research. The IAEA promotes the responsible management and disposal of waste, while verifying that nuclear technology is used only for peaceful purposes. Through research and technical cooperation projects, the IAEA facilitates the transfer of nuclear technology to Member States for use in medical, agricultural, industrial, water management and other applications. This contributes to the goals of sustainable development and protection of the environment. The IAEA’s laboratories provide training and conduct research.

The IAEA is an important agency for Canada reflecting our extensive use and export of nuclear energy and technology for peaceful purposes and due to its unique work in the areas of nuclear safeguards, particularly in Iran, Syria and North Korea, nuclear safety and security, and in the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Canada is a member of the IAEA’s Board of Governors and contributes to the IAEA in areas as diverse as the strengthening of safeguards, emergency preparedness and response, future reactor design, nuclear liability and food irradiation, with the involvement of a number of stakeholders in Canada from government, regulators, industry and academia. With its headquarters in Vienna, the IAEA maintains several regional offices, one of which is located in Toronto and is dedicated to the Agency’s safeguards verification/inspection mission.


Canada and the international community have grave concerns about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. While Iran has recently begun cooperating with the IAEA though the Framework for Cooperation, there have not yet been any substantive responses from Iran regarding the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program. Given Iran’s continued non-compliance with its NPT safeguards agreement and the absence, to date, of any tangible answers relating to PMD this has led to serious concerns from the international community regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran has reached an interim agreement with the P5+1 group of countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, USA), which is valid for six months until 20 July 2014. This Joint Plan of Action sets restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment in return for limited sanctions relief from the European Union and USA. During this six month period the P5+1 and Iran will attempt to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that would constrain Iran’s nuclear program over the long term.

Parallel Iran-International Atomic Energy Agency talks are ongoing to address longstanding questions over the “possible military dimensions” (PMDs) of Iran’s past and potentially current nuclear research. Iran and the IAEA agreed on 11 November 2013 to a Framework for Cooperation that expanded IAEA access in Iran. In the meantime, however, Iran remains subject to six UN Security Council sanctions resolutions and 12 IAEA Board of Governors resolutions for its undeclared nuclear activities.

In order to resolve this issue, it is imperative that Iran restore the international community’s confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, which Iran can do by meeting its legal obligations, complying with UN Security Council resolutions, and explaining fully all past and present outstanding issues relating to its nuclear program. Canada supports a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the current crisis and urges Iran’s leaders to accelerate and expand their cooperation with the international community. Until this is achieved, Canada will maintain robust sanctions against Iran.

North Korea:

In light of the grave security threat posed by North Korea’s ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile programs in contravention of successive UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), Canada remains steadfast in calling on North Korea resume adherence with the NPT and its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. It is incumbent upon North Korea to provide the Agency with all access as may be required and deemed necessary by the Agency to undertake monitoring activities. For its part, Canada maintains robust sanctions against North Korea.

Nuclear Cooperation Agreements

Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation policy establishes the conditions under which Canada is prepared to consider undertaking nuclear cooperation with selected partner countries.

Before Canada will consider nuclear cooperation with any non-nuclear-weapon State, that state must accept 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; and
  • 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.

Canada currently has 29 NCAs in place with 47 countries. The status of the NCAs that Canada has signed, as well as the texts of Canada’s NCAs that are in force, can be found under the “Bilateral” section of the Canada Treaty Information database.

Strategic Environmental Assessment: Public Statement on Canada's Approach to Current and Future Nuclear Cooperation Agreements

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.

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.