Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Endorsement date


Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is Canada’s independent nuclear regulator. The CNSC oversees nuclear activities to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment, and implements Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The CNSC’s mandate includes the dissemination of objective scientific, technical and regulatory information on its activities as well as on the effects of nuclear technology on human health and the environment.

In preparation for the potential introduction and adoption of emerging technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs) in the nuclear industry, the CNSC is ensuring that it has the capacity, capability and readiness to regulate such technologies and their use. Any proposed project to build and operate an SMR requires licensing by the CNSC.

While the CNSC has a flexible regulatory framework for the licensing and oversight of innovative nuclear technologies, it continues to review this framework for opportunities to clarify and improve it. This includes ensuring that its regulatory framework is technology neutral and adaptable to new technologies proposed in Canada. The CNSC has also implemented a regulatory readiness strategy for advanced reactor technologies, including SMRs. This strategy aims to support regulatory certainty by establishing the CNSC’s technical readiness and by informing the prioritization of regulatory readiness activities. Key to the success of this strategy will be an open and inclusive workplace that attracts and retains highly capable, motivated and agile staff with diverse backgrounds to ensure that no perspectives are overlooked while providing efficient, predictable and comprehensive regulatory oversight.

To help best navigate its regulatory and licensing processes, the CNSC has published regulatory information for SMR licence applicants. The CNSC offers optional pre-licensing engagement with potential applicants, as well as a pre-licensing vendor design review service, to help identify any significant barriers to licensing SMR technologies in Canada and thereby minimize potential impediments during the licensing process. This work supports the CNSC’s objectives of being a modern regulator that uses science-based, risk-informed and technically sound practices, and that has clear regulatory requirements and guidance.

Members of the public and Indigenous groups have requested information from the CNSC on the licensing, regulatory and safety implications of deploying SMR technologies in Canada.

Through new engagement and trust-building initiatives, the CNSC is working to better understand and address Canadians’ interests and concerns, and to reinforce its role in ensuring the safety of the design of any licensed technologies and their operation throughout their lifecycle. These initiatives are based on two-way communication, active listening, meaningful dialogue and long-term relationship building. A webinar-based public consultation on the CNSC’s regulatory approach to SMRs is scheduled for spring 2021.

The CNSC is a leader in advocating for international collaboration to be ready for innovative nuclear technologies. The CNSC encourages all nuclear regulators to examine their regulatory frameworks to ensure that they allow innovation and do not present unnecessary barriers, while remaining focused on safety and security at all times.

Successful collaboration between the CNSC and other mature nuclear regulators will lay the foundation for the potential harmonization of regulatory reviews of SMRs among the broader nuclear regulatory community, and allow for an enhanced global supply chain. This will be especially useful for countries that are embarking on or considering nuclear technologies. Such countries are often challenged by the resources and infrastructure required for the effective and safe review, licensing and regulation of nuclear technologies.

Regardless of the future of SMRs in Canada, the CNSC will ensure that its workforce and regulatory framework are ready to regulate this technology. It will address the interests and concerns of Canadians and continue to advocate for international collaboration, always in the interest of safety, at all times.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission updates on SMR roadmap recommendations

The CNSC, Canada’s independent nuclear regulator, conducts its work and decision making free from external pressures or influences. The CNSC reviewed, considered and agreed in principle with the recommendations made in the SMR Roadmap that were related to the CNSC mandate and therefore provides the following updates.


Nuclear Security

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 22


The CNSC started a review of the Nuclear Security Regulations in 2018 with the goal of making them more performance based and less prescriptive while respecting nuclear security principles. This work will inform the establishment of regulatory requirements for inclusion in the proposed next revision of the Nuclear Security Regulations, as well as the potential revision of existing regulatory documents and/or the production of any new regulatory documents.


  • Revised Nuclear Security Regulations only cover high-level principles similar to other regulations and prescriptive requirements are removed.
  • New CNSC regulatory document produced, providing necessary details and including the concept of a graded approach.
Regulatory Efficiency

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 23


The CNSC is reviewing its framework to ensure that it remains technology neutral with respect to emerging technologies like SMRs, and that it applies objective-based performance criteria in support of regulatory decision making. This should place the framework on a good footing in terms of CNSC readiness to evaluate innovative and emerging technologies against important safety requirements. The CNSC is assessing the whole framework, including the regulations and regulatory documents, to ensure that this is the case, and that the framework allows for the implementation of risk-informed approaches by applicants, licensees and the CNSC.

In addition, the CNSC is working with other regulators through the International Atomic Energy Agency to develop a systematic methodology for application of the graded approach to regulatory functions such as licensing and compliance.

The CNSC strives to provide clear regulatory requirements and guidance on the type of information that applicants and licensees need to provide when proposing novel technologies or methodologies. This is so that applicants and licensees may demonstrate, with supporting evidence, how it is that their application of innovative and emerging technologies and methodologies meets or exceeds the safety expectations and performance criteria provided in the regulatory framework.

The CNSC is also taking steps to build its human and knowledge capacities to ensure timely and predictable licensing reviews and approvals. Through an open, inclusive and diverse workplace, the CNSC will attract and retain staff with a broad range of perspectives and talents to support efficient and comprehensive regulatory oversight for the long term.


  • Additional efficiencies are introduced to provide further flexibility and clarity in SMR licensing and regulation.
  • Highly capable, motivated and diverse regulatory staff that ensure efficient, predictable and comprehensive regulatory oversight
Public, community, and Indigenous engagement in SMRs

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 24


The CNSC is committed to ongoing early engagement and consultation in relation to new nuclear projects including SMRs. The CNSC is continuing to respond to all requests from Indigenous groups and the public regarding its approach to assessing and regulating SMRs, including its approach to consultation. The CNSC will continue to engage with the public and Indigenous groups to ensure that those with questions or who are interested have full and meaningful information on Canada’s regulatory framework for SMRs. The CNSC will also continue to welcome, encourage and support participation in its decision-making processes, including by offering participant funding support to eligible applicants.

Through new engagement and trust-building initiatives, the CNSC is working to better understand and address Canadians’ interests and concerns, and to reinforce its role in ensuring the safety of the design of any licensed technologies and their operation throughout their lifecycle. Building on past lessons learned and on-going engagement related to regulatory policy development and licensing activities, the CNSC is focused on building long-term relationships and trust through two-way communication, active listening and meaningful dialogue.

A webinar-based public consultation on the CNSC’s regulatory approach to SMRs is scheduled for spring 2021.


  • The public and Indigenous communities continue to have full information on and active engagement in Canada’s regulatory framework in relation to SMRs on a range of issues.
  • Meaningful, long-term relationships are established that endure throughout the lifecycle of regulated projects.
  • The regulatory approach to SMRs is informed by and reflects expectations of Indigenous groups and the public, wherever possible.
International collaboration

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 25


Internationally, the CNSC is engaged in collaborative efforts to ensure readiness for the regulation of innovative nuclear technologies. These collaborative efforts seek to find efficiencies in regulatory reviews and information sharing, and to avoid duplication by leveraging other regulators’ technical assessments. The ultimate goal is to develop harmonized approaches for the licensing of advanced reactor technologies, including SMRs. In 2019, the CNSC signed a memorandum of cooperation with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission that could support more efficient reviews of SMRs. The CNSC also signed a similar memorandum of cooperation with the Office for Nuclear Regulation in the United Kingdom, enhancing existing collaboration through technical exchanges and sharing of training programs and development activities.

The CNSC is also working closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). This includes chairing the IAEA’s Commission on Safety Standards, which is a standing body of senior government officials holding national responsibilities for establishing standards and other regulatory documents relevant to nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety, as well as emergency preparedness and response. The CNSC is also actively participating in several working groups under the NEA’s leadership.

The CNSC contributes to the development of the IAEA’s safety standards, technical guides and reports, and is also an active participant in the IAEA’s SMR Regulators’ Forum. This forum was established in 2016 to identify, to enhance understanding of, and to address key regulatory challenges related to deployment of advanced reactor technologies including SMRs. Ultimately, this forum provides advice to the IAEA on any necessary adaptations to its framework.

Finally, the CNSC is providing regulatory insight to countries embarking on the use of nuclear technologies and that are planning to develop regulatory frameworks. The CNSC has provided guidance and delivered training to countries on SMR-related safety and licensing issues.


  • Canada is well-positioned to influence and lead in the development of international enabling frameworks for global deployment of SMRs.
  • Memoranda of cooperation with other nuclear regulators are developed to support more efficient reviews and the harmonization of approaches for the licensing of SMRs, including regulatory requirements.