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Audit faults Canadian nuke agency's inspection practices

The government agency charged with overseeing the safety of Canada'snuclear fleet cannot show that it is doing the right number or the right types ofinspections, according to the nation's environmental watchdog.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission could not show that itadequately managed its site inspections, a report from Canada's Auditor Generalsaid. The audit, which was done for federal Commissioner of the Environment andSustainable Development Julie Gelfand, was completed in July and released Oct. 4.The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's recordkeeping was in such disarray thatthe agency could not document all of its inspections, or that it had adequate staffto carry them out.

"What we found is that the commission does many differentsite inspections and they follow up on all non-compliances," Gelfand said."The commission was unable to tell us whether they were doing the minimum number,the right number and the right type of inspections to [e]nsure compliance with allthe regulations. As well, we found that 75% of site inspections were done withoutan approved site inspection guide. So our conclusion is that the commission needsto improve how it plans and implements its site inspections of nuclear power plants."

The report made five recommendations, which include implementinga documented planning process for inspections, coming up with detailed criteriafor when to conduct certain inspections, developing a process to ensure that thecommission follows its own procedures and documenting lessons it learns in inspectionsfor future improvement. The agency should also determine why it does not issue timelyfinal inspection reports, the report said.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said it accepted the reportand its findings and is taking corrective actions. It said it has completed workon meeting three of the five recommendations in the report and plans to addressthe remaining complaints by March 31, 2017.

"The audit recommendations focus particularly on the documentationof the planning and conduct of site inspections," Michael Binder, CEO of theagency, said in a statement. "CNSC management took corrective actions to respondto the recommendations."

Most of Canada's nuclear reactors are located in southern Ontario,where they provide baseload power to Canada's most-populous province. Those plantsinclude the Pickeringand Darlington nuclearplants, owned by Ontario Power GenerationInc., and the BruceA and Bruce Bnuclear plants, operated by BrucePower LP and owned by TransCanadaCorp., OMERS AdministrationCorp. and other parties.

NB Power,the province-owned utility of New Brunswick, operates the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station in NewBrunswick.