Atomic Energy Control Board

The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) was established in 1946 under the Atomic Energy Control Act, with the declaration that nuclear energy is essential to the national interest (and therefore under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government). The Act gives broad powers of regulation and sets out AECB's form as a departmental corporation. The 5-member board controls and supervises the development, application and use of nuclear energy in Canada through regulations and control programs, and participates on behalf of Canada in international measures of control.

The AECB achieves its control through a comprehensive licensing system administered with the co-operation of other federal and provincial government departments in such areas as health, environment, transport and labour. Control also extends to the export and import of prescribed substances and equipment and involves Canadian participation in the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency and compliance with the requirements of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Current regulations require that a licence be obtained from the AECB before any person or organization is allowed: to produce, mine, prospect for, sell, use, or possess for any purpose prescribed substances or devices or equipment containing radioactive prescribed substances; to export or import prescribed substances or prescribed items; or to operate a nuclear facility in Canada. A nuclear facility could be a nuclear reactor, a particle accelerator, a uranium or thorium mine or mill, a facility for processing nuclear reactor fuel, a plant for the production of deuterium oxide (heavy water), or a facility for the disposal of prescribed substances.

In order to exercise its regulatory role, the AECB defines standards that must be met, assesses the potential licensee's capabilities to meet and maintain them and, once a licence is issued, carries out inspections to monitor compliance with these requirements.

The AECB is also responsible for the administration of the Nuclear Liability Act, as amended, including the designation of nuclear installations and the prescription of basic insurance to be carried by the operators of such nuclear facilities. The AECB is designated as a Crown Corporation and reports to Parliament through the minister of Natural Resources.

On 20 March 1997, royal assent was given to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. It is to be proclaimed into law on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council. The Act is expected to be promulgated when regulations are approved to replace the existing Atomic Energy Control Regulations. At that time the name of the Atomic Energy Control Board will be replaced by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The CNSC will administer the new regulations which as of mid-1999 were still pending final review and publication.