CNSC staff speaks about radiation, health at South Bruce CLC

Original post via Kincardine Record.

At the April meeting of the South Bruce Community Liaison Committee (CLC), the community and committee members received an educational presentation from staff at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

The CNSC held a public webinar for South Bruce residents in September, 2020, and returned specifically to give an overview of radiation health basics for the CLC. This was prompted by a request from former CLC member Brian Knox at the February meeting.

After discussion about environmental monitoring and testing, Knox sought more information on the status of human health as an area of investigation and study.

The CNSC staff members began with an overview of their respective roles, and highlighted their mandate to “regulate the use of nuclear energy and materials, implement Canada’s international commitments on peaceful use of nuclear energy, and disseminate objective, scientific, technical and, regulatory information.”

They also specified that the CNSC is Canada’s independent nuclear regulator. It issues licences and monitors and inspects nuclear facilities. It is not within the scope of the CNSC or its staff to promote the industry, select sites, or own projects.

Radiation biologist Julie Burtt provided a summary on radiation, simply defined as “energy transmitted as waves or streams of particles” and shared a refresher video with the attendees. At the core of the presentation, CNSC staff explained the possible impacts of radiation on human bodies. It also shared a summary of international radiation protection frameworks, as well as Canadian regulations on permitted doses (millisieverts) of radiation and how protection measures are kept in place, such as through inspections and the monitoring of public and nuclear worker doses.

The presenters summarized that there are natural and artificial sources of radiation that humans are exposed to and as the regulator, the CNSC is responsible for setting dose limits. In closing, they noted that ongoing engagement with communities involved in the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) project is a priority, and that they remain dedicated to public safety.

The slide show used during the CNSC presentation can be found in the Agenda package for the April meeting on the new municipal website,

Following the presentation, the CLC members and the public asked several questions. One community member asked whether radiation having entered the body is much more dangerous than if present in the biosphere.

Burtt responded, noting that radiation will affect human health only if it enters your body; be it inhaled or otherwise. She explained that large doses of radiation would be the cause of health effects, and that these effects are not seen at the low doses that are set to protect human health.

Another question asked of CNSC staff, was if any tests have been done over 20-30 years to determine if radiation over extended periods can affect the DNA make-up of the human body.

“Epidemiology is not a snapshot in time,” said Burtt, adding that researchers can follow an individual over his lifetime or career. “This information can help us understand if DNA damage is occurring at a greater rate over the course of time.” She added that, indeed, researchers look at lifetime doses for individuals, such as nuclear workers.

Additional questions from the community will be forwarded to the CNSC for a response, and they will be publicly available on the Community Questions and Answers page on the municipal website upon receipt.

Each month, the CLC welcomes educational speakers to present particular subject matter, offer their knowledge, or present information in relation to the site-selection process for the NWMO project to manage Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

The next meeting will be held May 6 at 7 p.m., via Zoom and over the phone, and will welcome consultants from GHD, who are leading the independent willingness process in South Bruce on behalf of the municipality, and will be providing details on their work with the community, set to commence this spring.

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