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Watchdog raps Canadian nuclear regulator over power plant probes

Canadian nuclear regulator

The Canadian nuclear regulator says the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is disorganized and cannot carry out inspections due to staff shortages. Canadian Nuclear Association photo.

Canadian nuclear regulator found inadequate or missing documentation

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Oct 4 (Reuters) – The Canadian nuclear regulator is so bad at paperwork that it cannot prove it is properly inspecting nuclear power stations and ensuring operators follow the rules, the country’s official environmental watchdog said on Tuesday.

In an audit, Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand also highlighted what she said were staff shortages at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

The CNSC oversees Canada’s 19 nuclear reactors, which generate about 17 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Gelfand, who reports directly to Parliament, said the audit had uncovered many cases of inadequate or missing documentation.

“The CNSC could not show that site inspections were planned in a rigorous and systematic way to ensure they were sufficient – in both number and type – to verify that nuclear facilities were complying with all requirements,” Gelfand said.

“The commission could also not show it had allocated enough staff to carry out inspections,” she added in a statement.

The audit examined how the CNSC managed site inspections, not the overall safety of nuclear power plants in Canada.

While the CNSC did follow up on cases of non-compliance by power plant operators, and confirmed they were taking corrective action, it sometimes did so slowly, the audit found.

Gelfand said documentation was so poor that the CNSC could not prove its inspectors always followed correct procedures during site visits or that their reports accurately reflected what a plant inspection had found.

In the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years, the CNSC only completed 76 percent of planned site inspections, in part because it did not have the necessary staff.

Although senior management said there were enough inspectors, officials on the ground at every plant told Gelfand’s team that “there were either not enough inspectors at their sites or not enough at the levels needed.”

In a written response to the criticism, the CNSC said its nuclear oversight procedures were comprehensive, but agreed on the need for better documentation.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao)

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