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ARCHIVED - International Coordination of Nuclear Emergency Preparedness and Response

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Health Canada actively works with international governments and organizations to support and improve nuclear emergency preparedness and response plans and agreements.

The Canada - United States Joint Radiological Emergency Response Plan

After the nuclear accidents in Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania in 1979 and in Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986, Canada and the United States recognized the need for cooperation in developing a response to radiological events. Consequently, the two countries developed a joint plan to deal effectively with a potential or actual peacetime radiological event that could affect both countries or be of a magnitude that assistance from the neighbouring country could be required.

The Canada-United States Joint Radiological Emergency Response Plan (JRERP), signed in 1996, is designed to:

  • alert the appropriate federal authorities within each country of the existence of a threat from a potential or actual radiological event;
  • establish a framework of cooperative measures to reduce, to the extent possible, the threat posed to public health, safety, property, and the environment; and
  • facilitate coordination between the federal government in each country in providing support to provinces and states affected by a potential or actual radiological event.

The JRERP designates the lead roles to the following departments:

  • Health Canada in Canada; and
  • the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States.

International Atomic Energy Agency Conventions

Canada is a signatory of the IAEA's Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (1986), which establishes a notification system for nuclear accidents that have the potential for international trans-boundary release that could be of radiological safety significance for another country. The accident's time, location, radiation releases, and other data essential for assessing the situation must be reported, both directly to the IAEA and to other countries either directly or through the IAEA.

Canada is also a signatory of the IAEA's Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (1986), which sets out an international framework for cooperation between countries and with the IAEA to facilitate prompt assistance and support in the event of nuclear accidents or radiological emergencies. It requires countries to notify the IAEA of their available experts, equipment, or other materials they could offer in assistance. In case of a request for assistance from an affected country, each country decides whether it can offer the requested assistance. The IAEA serves as the focal point for such cooperation by channeling information, supporting efforts, and providing its available services.

The IAEA has designated Health Canada as its sole "National Competent Authority: Abroad" contact in Canada. Health Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission are the IAEA's two designated "National Competent Authority: Domestic" contacts.

Nuclear Energy Agency

Canada is a member of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), an organization consisting of 30 countries. The mission of the NEA is to assist its Member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international cooperation, the scientific, technological, and legal bases required for the safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The NEA regularly holds international exercises to test member countries' nuclear emergency preparedness plans. These exercises are designed to test:

  • areas where trans-boundary communication and coordination could be improved;
  • decision-making processes based on limited information and uncertain power plant conditions;
  • real time communications with the actual equipment and procedures; and
  • public information and interaction with media.

Health Canada has taken part in some of these exercises, representing Canada as a host country (1999), and as a supporting country (1996 and 2001).