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Health Concerns

Nuclear Emergency Preparedness

The goals of nuclear emergency preparedness and response are to protect the public from immediate or delayed health effects due to exposure to uncontrolled sources of ionizing radiation, and to mitigate the impacts of a nuclear emergency on property and the environment.

Nuclear emergency preparedness includes all activities done before an emergency happens to ensure that people and groups are ready and able to respond quickly and appropriately when an emergency happens. This includes activities such as:

  • preparing and maintaining emergency plans and procedures;
  • designating response personnel and ensuring they are suitably equipped to carry out their duties through training, drills, and exercises and
  • establishing and testing mechanisms to coordinate and carry out the response actions required during an emergency.

In Canada, responsibility for nuclear emergency preparedness and response rests with each level of government: local, municipal, provincial, and federal. Responsibility also exists to the international community through International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conventions .

Local Responsibility

The operators of nuclear facilities are responsible for emergency preparedness and response on the site of their nuclear facilities.

Municipal Responsibility

Municipal governments are responsible for managing and conducting emergency operations within their boundaries. They are also responsible for providing first responders, such as fire departments and ambulances, to the emergency site.

Provincial Responsibility

Provincial governments have the primary responsibility for protecting public health and safety, property and the environment within their borders.

Federal Responsibility

In the event of a nuclear emergency, the federal government is responsible for:

  • areas of emergency response within its jurisdiction, including federal lands, programmes , and services;
  • working with affected provinces and territories;
  • liaising with the international community and coordinating international support to an emergency in Canada;
  • liaising with diplomatic missions in Canada;
  • assisting Canadians abroad; and
  • coordinating the national response to a nuclear emergency occurring in a foreign country.

Health Canada has the lead role in the federal response to a peacetime nuclear or radiological emergency, which is outlined in the Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan .

International Responsibility

Canada has an international responsibility in the event of a nuclear emergency. A member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since its inception in 1957, Canada is a signatory on both the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (IAEA: 1987) and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (IAEA: 1996). These conventions ensure international notification as well as mutual assistance between signatory countries.

Interaction Between Levels

These areas of responsibility are not mutually exclusive. If the incident is too severe for one level of responsibility to adequately address, the next level will step in as requested and required. All levels of responsibility have a commitment to the health and safety of Canadians and the environment.