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Regulating Radiography - A Canadian PerspectiveD.W. Cochrane
The Nuclear Safety and Control Act has generated many changes in the manner in which the nuclear industry will be regulated in Canada, not the least of which will be the transition to ten sets of regulations. The Nuclear Safety and Control Act has given the Commission new powers to certify/decertify persons and equipment, the power to make regulations and licence conditions and it further clarifies the agency's position within the Canadian Federal system. The Commission has the power to conduct formal public hearings, hear witnesses, take evidence and control its proceedings. Each hearing will be a court of record.
The Nuclear Safety and Control Act empowers the Commission to require financial guarantees, to order remedial action in hazardous situations, and to require responsible parties to bear the costs of remedial measures such as decontamination. Compliance inspectors' enforcement powers and penalties for licence infractions are brought into line with other current legislative practices in Canada. For example the Act will increase the ceiling on penalties from $10,000.00 to $1,000,000.00.
As the federal nuclear control agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is answerable to the federal Parliament. It exercises control through a regulatory system that establishes the health, safety, security and environmental standards for uses of nuclear energy and licences only individuals and companies that can meet and maintain those standards for their activities.
Since the Atomic Energy Control Act was adopted in 1946, the mandate of the Atomic Energy Control Board has evolved from being primarily concerned with national security to emphasizing the control of the health, safety and environmental consequences of nuclear activities. Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the new Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has an explicit mandate to establish and enforce national standards in these areas. Among other interesting changes protection of the environment will be covered for the first time in Canadian nuclear legislation.
The mission of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is to ensure that the use of Nuclear Energy in Canada does not pose undue risk to Health, Safety, Security, and the Environment.
How Does the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission accomplish this mission?
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission does not promote the nuclear industry nor does it operate reactors, produce radioisotopes, or engage in any form of commercial, industrial or developmental nuclear-related activity. The Commission's clients are nuclear industry workers and members of the public, for whom it works in the interest of health, safety, security and environmental protection.
With few exceptions, if one wants to acquire, use, or dispose of nuclear substances in Canada, one must be licensed by the Commission and one's operations will be regulated and inspected by the Commission staff. This applies, for example, to hospitals and clinics using radioisotopes for diagnostic treatment purposes, to uranium mining operations and refineries, to oil companies using nuclear substances for exploration, and also to industrial radiography operations.
Regulation of course, is a primary function of Government and as in other countries no where is this more prevalent than in the nuclear industry in Canada. If regulation is to be effective, the regulatory criteria employed must be concise and understandable. They must also be comprehensive but yet not lead to over-regulation.
As the keystone of its Regulatory philosophy, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission holds the licensee responsible for maintaining high standards of safety and environmental protection while the Commission staff ensures that adequate standards are set and complied with. Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, Regulations have been written which specify the detailed requirements as well as the rights of licensees operating nuclear facilities or using nuclear substances. Prompted by the NSCA Regulations, the Commission staff have written guidance documents which provide licensees with an interpretation of the Regulations as well as indicating regulatory expectations regarding the radiation protection programs that they are to put in place.
The regulatory process that is followed is basically the same for all nuclear activities. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission indicates to applicants and licensees what is expected with respect to radiation safety and radiation protection programs for each licenced activity. Submissions by applicants and licensees are evaluated by licence assessment officers against standards which have been established for each activity. The evaluation process entails frequent communication and dialogue between the licence assessment officer and the applicant or licensee. The applicants and licensees are held to high standards, both in their submissions in support of a licence application and in their ongoing daily operations.
After a licence is granted the initial evaluation process is followed by a field compliance and assessment program. The field compliance and assessment program looks at the detailed as well as the larger overall picture of a licensee's operation to ensure that the radiation safety and radiation protection programs are being implemented as described in the original licence application submissions and that they are in fact, effective.
The compliance program strategy has three purposes:
The level of inspection required to verify compliance will depend upon:
In Canada the evaluation and inspection processes have been expanded through a performance indicator program. This program uses licensee performance indicators to set in motion procedures to deal with non-compliance issues. The procedures deal with the issues that arise in a graduated enforcement manner ranging from initial contact with a licensee to discuss the problems in an attempt to correct the situation at the low-end, to formal regulatory action or prosecution at the high-end. Every effort is made by Commission staff to resolve issues of non-compliance with the regulations without resorting to prosecution. Prosecution is a lengthy and expensive business that does not directly resolve the root cause of the compliance problems.
The performance indicator program further involves the licensees by encouraging comments and recommendations as to how the Commission itself performs its regulatory duties from the licensees' point of view. This information is essential to effective regulatory self-assessment. And after all, the performance indicator methodology should reasonably apply to the regulatory staff just as much as it does to licensees.
Regulation of the radiography industry is somewhat more complex than regulatory activities for other nuclear substances. Radiographers traditionally use exposure devices which utilize very large nuclear sources. The radiography industry in Canada is one of the most wide-ranging in the country's nuclear industry with operations extending from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast, a distance of some 5000 Km. Radiographers use exposure devices in every conceivable environment and often in public areas. Thus, not only is it necessary to evaluate and inspect radiography operations to promote compliance with the regulations but the operators themselves must also be certified to ensure that they are totally competent in the safe, and I emphasize safe, operation of the exposure devices.
From 1983 to June, this year, the Atomic Energy Control Board required that to become qualified, each operator of an exposure device in Canada had to write and pass a safety examination prepared by the Board. The examination tested the operators knowledge of radiation safety, the regulations, and emergency procedures in the operation of the exposure device. If an operator failed the examination, he or she was not permitted to operate an exposure device in Canada. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has now determined that the confidence that an exposure device will be safely operated should be strengthened and with this aim has introduced some new requirements.
Beginning June 1, 2000 the Commission implemented a new certification program for exposure device operators, entitled, the Certified Exposure Device Operator Program. In summary, the program requires that the applicant take a 40-hour radiation safety course, pass a written safety examination recognized by the Commission, take a 320 hour practical training course at a radiography facility and finally, pass a practical examination. The Commission intends that this program provide more complete basic training for exposure device operators and that it should help prevent or significantly reduce high exposures and incidents of non-compliance among workers. The program also provides for the decertification of Certified Exposure Device Operators by the Commission where warranted as an additional regulatory power. The Certified Exposure Device Operator Program may be further strengthened in the future with a requirement for recertification of operators every 5 years. In addition, the program encourages all exposure device operators to attain more advanced certifications than the basic one such as those aligned with the ISO 9712 standard for radiography certification.
Radiographers account for the highest occupational exposures in the nuclear industry as well as for most overall of the exposures above regulatory limits. Not surprisingly then, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission views the establishment and implementation of radiation protection programs for radiographers of special importance and through these programs compliance with ALARA ( As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principles as a foremost part of their daily work culture. Licensees who employ radiographers must have Action Levels in place to deal with above normal but below regulatory limit exposures of these people. These levels trigger specific actions which will be implemented by licensees as radiographers' personal exposure limits increase. The actions take the form of investigations, interviews, training programs, and in extreme cases, warnings and suspensions, in order to prevent the radiographer from exceeding the regulatory limit. The Action Levels are designed in an escalated fashion to deal with the exposures more strongly as they progress toward regulatory limits.
In Canada the National Dosimetry Registry (NDR) maintains a data base of all exposures to Nuclear Energy Workers including radiographers. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission receives reports regularly from the NDR of radiographers who approach and exceed the regulatory limits. This provides Commission staff with a check of whether a licensees Action Level program is working. If the Action Levels are implemented by the licensees as required, no radiographer should reach a regulatory exposure limit except in the event of an accident or an event beyond the control of the worker. In 1999, as a result of licensees implementing Action Level programs, only one radiographer in Canada exceeded the regulatory exposure limit with a confirmed personal exposure, compared to several radiographers each year in previous years.
In Canada, radiographers work to very demanding production schedules and tend to be nomadic working for more than one company each year. Under these conditions it is easy for licensees to lose control of the accumulating dose of their employees. It is, therefore, now a requirement that all Nuclear Energy Workers provide their employers upon demand a copy of their previous one year and five year personal dose history.
As I stated earlier the Canadian nuclear regulatory philosophy is based upon the licensee being held responsible for maintaining high standards of safety and environmental protection. In keeping with this philosophy, the Commission encourages each licensee to develop procedures for internal auditing of all aspects of their operations. For large radiography companies, the Commission staff have found that this practice has worked very well. It is very easy for a company to lose control of its dose control and radiation protection program because of the number of employees and the logistical demands of radiography operations.
Looking to the future, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is considering implementing yet further new requirements for the radiography industry. These include the possible certification of Radiation Safety Officers (RSO's), two person certified work crews and restricting emergency source retrieval to be performed by trained and qualified workers. The successful training of workers for emergency source retrieval would dramatically reduce the exposures to workers during these operations, and two person certified work crews would also add significantly to the personal safety of normal radiography operations.
In summary, regulation of the radiography industry in Canada is an intensive cooperative effort by Commission staff and specifically between the Licence Assessment Officers and the Compliance Inspectors. Implementation is achieved through a mix of enforcement and compliance facilitation by licensees by communication of Commission expectations, promoting training and education, and through thorough and comprehensive assessment and inspection programs.
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