CRPA

I moved to Canada from another country in 2011 on a work permit tied to a specific employment type. I have a Master’s degree in Chemistry, experience as a CBRN (chem-bio-rad-nuclear) first responder and investigator, experience working at a commercial nuclear facility and was formerly a health physicist for the military. Recently my wife and I were fortunate enough to be granted permanent residency. I am now free to work for anyone in Canada. I’m interested in getting to know people and organizations in this line of work, but have so far struggled. Is this something that I would be able to do if a member of your organization? Am I even eligible? The reason I ask is that I’ve been told many times by prospective employers that they won’t recognize my qualifications as they are not from Canada.

You have come to the right place.  While there are other organizations in Canada whose membership is drawn from specific nuclear industries, such as industrial radiography or the nuclear power industry, the CRPA is a multidisciplinary organization with members from those and many other fields.  Our diverse membership ranges from health physicists and radiation safety officers to diagnostic x-ray technologists, non-ionizing radiation specialists, government regulators and equipment manufacturers and distributors.  Many of us have education and experience similar to your own, including some members from outside Canada.  Given your background and interest in the field of radiation protection, you are certainly eligible to be a member of our organization.  Should you be interested in joining, you can find all of the relevant information under the “Membership – Prospective Members” tab on the CRPA website. Based on your email, we’d suggest you apply for Associate Membership initially.  This will give you full access to the many benefits that the CRPA has to offer.

One of the greatest benefits of the CRPA is the opportunity to network with other radiation safety professionals in Canada.   Members have access to information on upcoming events, job postings, a resume posting service, and training opportunities. You can also reach out to individual members for advice or get in touch with other people with similar backgrounds and interests through our LinkedIn and Facebook pages.   Our annual conference, which is normally held in late May or early June, provides a unique opportunity to meet and share operational experience and research related to radiation safety and to see the latest in radiation safety technology.  Finally, the CRPA also offers a Canadian radiation protection competency certification.

We hope you consider joining our association and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

I am Nuclear Physics Engineer, currently occupying the position of RSO at a radioactive waste management lab in nuclear research centre in another country. My question is on the nature of your organization – are you a regulatory organization or an association for the development of radiation protection?

We are an association for the development of radiation protection in Canada.  For details regarding the nature of our Association and the types of activities we are involved with, please review the Mission and Vision statements on our website, as well as our Objectives.

Should you be interested in obtaining a membership in our Association, please refer to the “MEMBERSHIP”, “new member application” section.

Fukushima

Why hasn’t the extent of the Fukishima disaster been made available to Canadians? What are you doing to help Canadians in the higher risk areas? Why hasn’t there been more effort been made to pressure Japanese authorities to manage the disaster sight effectively?

Fukushima was obviously a very high-profile incident and has generated a lot of questions. We’ve done our best to respond to your inquiries below.

To your first point, we would take the position that the extent of the Fukushima disaster has been made available to Canadians. More than two years after the initial incident the event continues to be reviewed in enormous detail by various agencies worldwide. For example, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission provided up-to-date information in the days and weeks following the tsunami and continued to do so well after the event. They have a lot of information on their website, such as the post, “Fukushima, one year later.” There are several links on this page which lead to further information.

Another suggestion would be to visit Health Canada’s website. There are many pages there with additional information on the Fukushima incident, including Radiation Monitoring Data, and information on some of the first debris that washed up on Canadian soil. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization published a report entitled, “Health risk assessment from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.” The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) has a webpage focused on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, and the World Nuclear Association published their own detailed report of the accident and the actions that have been taken to date. All of these resources are publicly available to Canadians.

Looking forward, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) is in the process of finalizing a major study to assess the radiation doses and effects from Fukushima. More details on this report can be found here.

In response to your second question regarding what we are doing to help Canadians in higher risk areas, we must point out that there are in fact no higher risk areas in Canada as a result of the Fukushima incident. This is demonstrated in some of the references mentioned above, particularly the radiation monitoring data provided by Health Canada. The amount of measurable fallout in Canada was absolutely minimal.

Regarding your third point, there has in fact been enormous pressure on Japanese authorities to manage the disaster site, although the magnitude of these efforts is more difficult to quantify. As just one example, the IAEA has publicly called for improvements at the Fukushima site as recently as April 2013. International pressure has also been credited with Tepco moving up the timetable for the removal of spent fuel rods from the site, as well as for their more detailed investigation into the radiation doses received by their workers.

Where can someone be tested for radiation? I was in Japan in March of 2011 during the nuclear reactor melt down. My flight was never scanned for radiation exposure, but flights thereafter were.

Thanks very much for your question. There are various methods by which someone can be tested for radiation exposure. Assuming you are concerned about radiation from the Fukushima incident, we can also provide a bit of background information.

Radioactive materials that are inhaled or ingested can be measured by looking for content in urine or by direct measurement on the whole body. However, at this point in time it would be very unlikely that anything would be found. Radioactive iodine is one of the more common radioactive materials that could have been detected from the Fukushima incident, but by now it would have decayed away. Other materials which may stay radioactive for longer periods also leave the body with time.

Radiation exposures from an external source (i.e. not inhaled or ingested) cannot be measured after the fact, but only during the exposure if one is wearing a radiation monitoring device. There are certain blood tests that can indicate if someone was exposed to very high levels of radiation, however it is extremely unlikely that you would have been exposed to such high levels.

Health Canada can perform some of these tests if an individual is referred by their physician, although the whole body measurements to check for inhaled or ingested material are only performed in Ottawa. There are other commercial facilities in Canada that can also provide these tests for a fee. If you wish, we can provide you with a list of some that may be close to you, depending on your location in Canada.

In regards to the flights being scanned, that may depend on where you were at the time and where your flight left from. There was some discussion in Canada about whether routine flights coming back to the county from Japan should be scanned, however after reviewing the available information it was determined that this was not necessary. If you have more specific information on your flight and other flights that may have been scanned for radiation exposure we may be able to provide a more detailed response to this part.

If you are interested in some numbers on the radiation levels in Japan from the Fukushima incident, there is some data in a report recently released by the World Health Organization entitled, “Preliminary Dose Estimation from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.” This is a rather long report and is sometimes technical, but it does contain some useful numbers. Specifically, section 3.3 of the report, entitled, “Geographical Distribution of Doses” (page 41) summarizes the doses that one would receive over an entire year in various areas in and around the Fukushima prefecture and the rest of Japan. These values are also summarized in a table on page 44 of the report. Keep in mind that these doses would have been accrued over an entire year, so depending on how long you were in Japan only a fraction of those values may apply in your case.

The figure on page 52 of the report goes on to provide some practical comparisons between the radiation levels calculated in the report and typical doses from background radiation, medical exams, etc. A copy of this report can be found at the following link.

Overall, if you were not near Fukushima at the time of the incident, you would not have been exposed to any significant level of radiation.

I hope we have been able to address your concerns. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us again and we will be happy to respond.

I’m a stay at home mum in Abbotsford BC. I have been gathering from the news we are getting about the Fukushima situation that we will likely be receiving unhealthy doses of radiation here in North America due to air currents bringing radioactive particles across the Pacific. Do you have any information about this? It is my belief that there are things we can do to protect ourselves and minimize our exposure. I am looking for instructions as to what can be done and also would like to see real numbers as far as radiation levels in our neighbourhood. Furthermore, here in the Fraser Valley there is a lot of food production going on, and I’d like to know if it’s safe to consume these products.

Thank you very much for your inquiry. Let me start out by reassuring you that we are not receiving any dangerous doses of radiation in Canada from air currents bringing radioactive particles across the Pacific, and that it is safe to consume food products from the Fraser valley.

It is true that there were some radioactive particles that did travel across the Pacific and reached North America about a week after the initial accident last year, but the amount of these particles and the levels of radiation were so low that it was not a health concern. The fact is that we are constantly exposed to background radiation from the ground, cosmic rays and other natural sources. The increase in radiation levels above background due to the Fukushima accident was so small that it could only be detected with very sophisticated instruments. At the present time, there is no radioactivity in Canada due to the Fukushima accident above normal background levels.

Health Canada has a system of radiation detectors placed across Canada. Some of the data (up to and including 2011) is available at the following website. The table on this page shows that there was no appreciable increase in radiation dose in the air after the Fukushima. Other sets of data for other cities and time periods are also available on the Health Canada website.

Again, because the amount of radioactive particles that reached Canada was so low, it was at the time of the accident and is still at the present time safe to consume food products from the Fraser Valley and from anywhere else in Canada.

If you are looking for some more hard numbers, there is some data in a report recently released by the World Health Organization entitled, “Preliminary Dose Estimation from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.” This is a rather long report and is sometimes rather technical, but to summarize, radiation doses to countries neighboring Japan and in the rest of the world were less than 0.01 mSv, and usually significantly less than that (mSv are units of radiation measurement). Page 54 of the report provides some practical examples of how much radiation this compares to; for example, 0.01 mSv would be the same dose that one might receive from a 2 dental x-rays. A copy of that report can be found at the following link.

You had also asked about what can be done to protect ourselves and minimize our exposure from radiation. In the event of a radiological or nuclear emergency there are things that can be done, such as evacuation, sheltering in place, taking stable iodine and avoiding the consumption of contaminated water and food. However, none of these measures were required here in Canada and the time of the accident and are not necessary at the present time because, as was mentioned, the amount of radioactive particles that reached Canada was not a health concern and was hardly measurable above the natural background of radiation. More information on these topics can be provided if you are interested.

I hope that you find this information both helpful and reassuring. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Miscellaneous

We are trying to find the Canadian equivalent report to a USA Report called: NCRP Report No 147 (National Council of Radiation Protection and Measurements) For Structural Shielding design for medical x-ray imaging facilities.

There is no direct Canadian equivalent to NCRP Report No. 147. While you may find the dose limits and other requirements that are applicable in Canada in the Health Canada Safety Codes, or in the appropriate provincial legislation, there is no Canadian document that lays out the methodology of calculating x-ray shielding in the detail that you find in NCRP 147.  In fact, many Canadian documents, such as the Health Canada Safety Codes themselves, simply have references to NCRP 147 or its precursor, NCRP 49.

This is the case for many of the NCRP documents. For example NCRP 151, which describes shielding design for megavoltage radiotherapy facilities, is commonly used inCanada, although Canadian dose design targets must be substituted wherever American targets are referenced in the report.

Radiation and Health Care

I just found out that I am pregnant. I work at a laser clinic that uses IPL and Diode lasers. I am wondering if I need to worry about radiation from these machines and if I need to purchase a lead vest?

We can reassure you that you do not need to worry about being pregnant while working with the equipment in the laser clinic. The wavelengths from IPL (intense pulsed light) or lasers used in cosmetics industry are typically in the 400-1200 nm range. In this range, the lasers cannot harm the fetus.

In general, radiation falls into two categories – ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Examples of ionizing radiation include X-rays, like you might get at a hospital or dentist office. X-rays can penetrate the human body – this is exactly why they are used to take pictures of bones or other organs inside the body. In order to shield against this type of radiation, patients will often wear lead vests to protect the parts of their body that are not being imaged, and the staff may stand behind leaded glass to protect themselves from scattered X-rays produced from the machine.

Lasers fall into the second category, which is non-ionizing radiation. While X-rays can penetrate the body, the lasers that you are working with cannot. This means that you do not have to wear any extra protective equipment while you are pregnant. The main hazard in working with lasers is the possibility of damaging your eyes or the surface of your skin. It’s sometimes helpful to think of the hazards of working with lasers the same as you would with the hazards of a knife. Unless the laser you are working with is physically capable of cutting through your skin (not just a burn), it will not cause any harm to anything under your skin.

I got an X-ray not knowing that I was pregnant. Should I get an abortion?

NO – the amount of radiation delivered in a normal x-ray is very low and is unlikely to affect the foetus in any way.  The normal requirement of informing your physician if you know you are pregnant prior to receiving any x-rays is a “best practice” precautionary measure which enables the physician to consider other options for the examination.  If you have received an x-ray while pregnant and are unsure about the nature of the x-ray exam or the amount of radiation you may have been exposed to, consult with your physician.

Are nuclear medicine diagnostic tests dangerous?

Most nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures involve the administration of a radiopharmaceutical (a pharmaceutical including a radioactive material) into a vein and imaging of the photon emissions from the radioactive material. This is a routine procedure, which has been around in various forms (e.g. bone scan, detection of cancer, study of heart and brain) for more than 30 years. Radiation doses from such procedures are quite low (in the order of few millisieverts [mSv], which is roughly equivalent to two years’ exposure to natural background radiation) and is not a hazard to the patient or others. Patients are radioactive for up to a few days (depending of the radiopharmaceutical used), which can be measured if they are near any typical radiation detectors.

Radiation Basics

Do cell phones emit radiation?

When you are using a cell phone, it must emit very low level “radiofrequency” radiation in order to transmit the information from your phone to the nearest relay tower.  This is a form of “non-ionizing” radiation.  We suggest you visit Health Canada’s very comprehensive website addressing common concerns regarding radiation from cell phones.

What is radon?

Health Canada has a very good website which describes what radon is, how it is produced, when it may be of concern and how to deal with radon in the home.  You can refer to their website for more information.

What is background radiation?

Radiation which comes from natural sources in the environment is known as “background radiation”.  This includes things like radiation emitted from naturally occurring radioactive materials, such as natural Uranium in the ground and its decay products such as radon, or the Carbon-14 and Potassium-40 in every persons body.  It also includes cosmic rays from the sun.

The chart here provides more details on the sources of background radiation.

What is ionizing radiation?

Radiation with sufficient energy to strip electrons from or “ionize” atoms when interacting with matter, including human tissue is called “ionizing radiation.” It may be either in the form of waves, such as gamma or x-rays, or particles, such as alpha particles, beta particles and neutrons.

For a more in-depth explanation of ionizing radiation, you can visit our Learning Centre Presentation.

What is radiation?

Radiation is essentially energy traveling through a medium such as air, water, or space. Radiation can be divided into two categories. The first is electromagnetic radiation, which transports energy in the form of waves, such as radio waves or X-rays. The second is corpuscular radiation, which is composed of real particles as opposed to waves. Alpha particles, beta particles and neutrons are a few good examples.

Radiation can also be further divided into ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. This distinction depends on the energy of the radiation. Ionizing radiation has enough energy to remove electrons from atoms, creating ions. Non-ionizing radiation does not have enough energy to remove electrons but instead causes the atoms to move or vibrate

For a more in-depth explanation of radiation, you can visit our Learning Centre Presentation.

What is radioactive material?

Radioactive material is material which contains atoms which will spontaneously “decay” to form other types of atoms by emitting radiation in the form of particles and gamma rays.

 

To understand radioactive material, one needs know a little bit about the composition of matter.  Every material is made up of tiny particles called atoms.  At the middle of each atom is a “nucleus” made up of “protons” and “neutrons”.  The number of protons in the nucleus determines the type of “element”.  If the number of protons and neutrons is properly balanced, the atom will be “stable”.  The oxygen that we breathe is an example of stable atom.  It will normally contain 8 protons and 8 neutrons, and is referred to as “Oxygen-16”, where 16 refers to the total number of protons and neutrons in each nucleus.

However, some combinations of protons and neutrons may not be stable and will “decay” by emitting “radiation”, in the form of particles and energy.  For example, the combination of 8 protons and 7 neutrons is another form or “isotope” of oxygen, known as “Oxygen-15”.  It is unstable or “radioactive”.  It emits a positively charge particle known as a “positron” as well as gamma rays.  In doing so, one of the protons in the nucleus is converted to a neutron, so that the newly created nucleus contains 7 protons and 8 neutrons.  Because there is now one fewer proton, the new atom is actually “Nitrogen-15”.  This combination is stable.

Radioactive isotopes, also known as radioisotopes, exist all around us naturally, and can even be found in elements such as carbon, hydrogen, and cobalt. They can be found in the ground, for example, in the form of Uranium and its decay products such as radon, in equilibrium with all living things in the form of Carbon-14, and directly in the body in the form of Potassium-40.  Radioactive isotopes may also be produced artificially.  For example, Oxygen-15 is often used for medical diagnostic purposes and is specially produced in a device called a “cyclotron”

What is ionizing radiation?

Radiation with sufficient energy to strip electrons from or “ionize” atoms when interacting with matter, including human tissue is called “ionizing radiation.” It may be either in the form of waves, such as gamma or x-rays, or particles, such as alpha particles, beta particles and neutrons.

 

For a more in-depth explanation of ionizing radiation, you can visit our Learning Centre Presentation.

Safety

How much radiation exposure do I get from air travel?

There have been many studies on radiation doses from air travel.  Health Canada has a webpage with information on the topic of cosmic radiation and air travel. In addition, the Health Physics Society in the US has a public information page dealing specifically with this question.

Another excellent resource is the bilingual on-line calculator that allows you to calculate the cosmic radiation dose you might expect to receive during a flight, based on departure point, destination, and flight date and time (). To toggle between languages, click on the French or UK flag in the lower right corner. The www.sievert-system.org web site is published by the Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire (IRSN), the French institute of expertise in radiation protection and nuclear safety. It provides information on cosmic radiations, doses and health effects.

From this data, a typical cross Canada flight from Toronto to Vancouver would result in a personal dose of about 0.03 mSv, which is ten time less than the annual exposure to cosmic radiation for any Canadian, an less than 2% of the Canadian average annual dose from natural sources of background radiation.

Air crews who fly all the time typically receive total professional annual doses on the order of a few mSv in addition to their exposure to natural radiation background.  This level of exposure is well below the annual dose limit applicable for Nuclear Energy Works in Canada, which is 50 mSv in any one year and 20 mSv/y, when averaged over a 5 year period.

How much radiation is dangerous?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer about radiation.  There are three major issues which make it difficult to explain.  First is the need to have some understanding of how radiation is measured.  Second is that people’s perception of what is “safe” vs. what is “dangerous” is very subjective and varies enormously from person to person.  Finally, there is no “fine line” level of radiation exposure below which you are absolutely safe and above which you are guaranteed to incur harm.

The principal health hazard from exposure to ionizing radiation is the possible development of a cancer in the exposed tissue or organ at some point later in life. At low levels of exposure, the risk of this occurring is very low, but the risk increases in proportion to the amount of exposure. Based on epidemiological studies, the increased risk of developing a fatal cancer due to radiation exposure has been estimated to be about 5% per Sv. In Canada, the probability of developing a fatal cancer (from all causes) during a lifetime is about 25%.Therefore, a dose of 100 mSv results in an increased risk of about 0.5%, increasing the probability of developing a fatal cancer from all causes to 25.5%. Radiation is considered to be a relatively weak carcinogen.

For doses below 100 mSv it is more difficult to detect a difference between exposed and unexposed populations because of the high background incidence of cancer. The conservative approach accepted by many international organizations is to assume that the proportional relationship between radiation exposure and risk can be extrapolated down to extremely low doses; this is called the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) assumption.

Is the depleted uranium tested in Nanoose Bay dangerous to public health and the environment?

The Nanoose Bay area is used primarily as a test range for torpedoes, which do not contain depleted uranium.  Health Canada has published an information sheet containing information about the potential risks associated with depleted uranium. While depleted uranium may pose both a radiological and chemical hazard under certain conditions, no depleted uranium being used at Nanoose Bay.

Canadian regulations for the allowable levels of tritium in drinking water are higher than their USA and EU counterparts. Since Tritium can’t be filtered out of water, does that mean Canadians will be more susceptible to radiation causing diseases and cancers? The Government claims that our groundwater reserves aren’t contaminated and that they’re not used for drinking in any case. Does this mean they’re contaminated or not? Does it pose any danger to the environment?

It is true that the limits in Canada are higher than in some other countries, such as the US. However, this does not mean that Canadians are more susceptible to cancer or other effects of radiation.  Guidelines on the limits are provided by Health Canada and can be found in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.  The limit in Canada is based upon international radiation protection concepts, including data from the International Committee on Radiation Protection and the World Health Organization.  Some countries have chosen to use slightly different data in their calculations, which results in different limits.  For example, US limits are lower than Canada, but Australian limits are higher.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) document Standards and Guidelines for Tritium in Drinking Water, explains these differences in more detail.  Canada has chosen to use a reference dose level of 0.1 mSv/year for limiting tritium.  This is 10% of the general radiation dose limit for the public.  It is 20-30 times lower than the total amount of radiation that an individual would receive in a year from all sources of natural background radiation.

Recently, the Ontario government considered lowering the tritium limits in that Province. In response to this proposal, the CRPA wrote a position paper demonstrating that there was in fact no need to reduce the limits.  There were several reasons for this, including the fact that there was no scientific basis for the proposed decrease.

As you can see from this information page on the CNSC website, there may be some areas where tritium concentrations in groundwater are higher than others, but this is due to historical activities, and the locations are well known. It is illegal to discharge any tritium directly to groundwater. Any groundwater which does have elevated levels of tritium is not used as a source of drinking water and does not pose a health risk to the public.

CANDU operators claim that it is the best nuclear reactor design in the world, but on the other hand South Korea also claims to have the best and safest designs. Which is true? Are the routine daily radiation emissions from the CANDU reactors here in Canada safe?

There are pros and cons to the various different types of reactor designs.  Getting into the specific differences would require a very technical discussion, but we can assure you that both the CANDU and South Korean reactors are very safe.   It is worth noting that South Korea operates more than one type of reactor, including 4 CANDU systems as well as a number of different Korean designed systems.  The companies that build reactors are trying to market and sell their product, and will therefore promote aspects of their equipment that they believe will attract potential customers – much like the manufacturer of any other product would.  Regardless, both types of reactors are built to very high standards and must pass rigorous regulatory requirements before they can be put into operation.

A detailed evaluation of routine radiation emissions from the reactors would also require a very technical discussion, as it depends upon the specific type of radioactive isotope being considered and emission pathway (e.g., water or airborne).  However, all emissions must meet strict regulatory requirements established by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), which is the regulatory authority for nuclear substances in Canada.  CNSC document Tritium Releases and Dose Consequences in Canada in 2006 contains information on tritium releases from reactors.  Section 4.1.2 shows that tritium releases from the nuclear generating stations in Canada are all well below allowable limits.

Health Canada operates the Canadian Radiological Monitoring Network, which takes various measurements of radioactivity including tritium in water vapor around nuclear power plants. You can find this information here.

Services

Do you know of any persons/firms or companies in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada that conduct testing and assessment of levels of radio frequency exposure from installations such as cellphone towers or base stations? If so, could you please send me their contact information?

The CRPA has several companies in our organization that are registered as Corporate Members, who offer a wide range of services. You can view a list of all of our Corporate Members here. We also maintain a business directory which includes both our Corporate Members and other companies. In this case, we recommend you check under the category of “Non-ionizing Radiation” in the business directory.  If you are unable to find what you are looking for using these resources, please let us know and we can try and assist you further.

I have client who is applying for a license to service Canadian based industrial devices containing radioactive isotopes. With that, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) requires the company to employ an agent in Canada who can accept legal documents on behalf of the company. Is it possible for you to recommend an attorney who can provide such a service?

Unfortunately we are unable provide a recommendation for an attorney who would be able to act as an agent in Canadafor your client. The majority of our members already work for Canadian institutions or companies, so this situation is not something our Association normally encounters. Our best suggestion would be to contact one of the consulting companies who are Corporate Members of the CRPA.  These companies are categorized according to the types of services they offer in our business directory.  Many have experience in handling CNSC license applications and may be able to suggest someone to you, although this may create a conflict given that they are also consulting firms.  We apologize for not being able to provide a better answer, but if there is anything else we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Where can I purchase bilingual radiation warning signs and placards?

There is a list of companies on the CRPA website under the “Membership” – “Corporate Members” tab.  Many of these companies supply radiation warning signs and placards in addition to other radiation safety related services.  Please visit their websites or contact them directly to obtain a list of the products and services they provide.

In addition, there are many other general safety supply companies in Canada which can supply bilingual radiation warning signs.  These include, but are certainly not limited to:

Training

I have a B.Sc. in Medical Physics and five years experience working in a hospital radiology department in another country. I am now living in Canada and am looking for a job in the field of radiation protection. I’m wondering, are there any special requirements for working in this field in Canada?

There are no universally required education or experience qualifications for working in the field of radiation protection in Canada.  Each employer will set their own requirements, depending upon the nature of the work expected.  In general, potential employers tend to look for education and experience directly related to the scope of their radiation protection program (e.g., a Radiation Technology Nuclear Medicine degree or diploma for work in nuclear medicine, a Medical Physics degree for work in a cancer treatment centre or diagnostic x-ray department, or a Health Physics degree when working in university labs).  Anyone working in the field of radiation protection in Canada will require specific knowledge of applicable Canadian regulations, such as those of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and/or Health Canada’s Safety Codes.

However, there are certain types of jobs within the general field of radiation protection which may require additional qualifications.  For example, to work as a Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) in certain types of facilities, such as nuclear power plants or radiation therapy treatment centers, you may also be required to be certified by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).   For more information, please contact the CNSC directly.

There is a list of companies on the CRPA website under the “Membership” – “Corporate Members” tab.  Many of these companies offer RSO training courses which include an overview of applicable Canadian regulations.  Please visit their websites or contact them directly for detailed information regarding the courses that they offer. Successful completion of an RSO training course is generally helpful when looking for work in the field of radiation protection in Canada.

CRPA members who are working as an RSO in Canada are eligible for professional registration as an RSO with the Association.  This includes a formal, written exam process.  Qualified persons may apply to take the exam, which is available during the CRPA Annual Conference.  More information can be found on the CRPA website under “Membership – Professional Designation”.

I’ve been working as a Radiation Surveyor (Safety Officer) for the past seven years. I am now considering writing either the CRPA(R) exam or the National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists (NRRPT) exam, which I believe is also recognized in Canada. Can you please tell me, what are the differences between the two exams and which one would best be suited for me? My goals are to become more versatile and be able to work in different environments, whether it be reactors, hospitals or mines for example.

Congratulations on your decision to further your qualification in radiation protection. You asked which qualification you should pursue; RRPT or CRPA(R). The short answer is, both! There is a great deal of common ground between the exams and studying for one will definitely help you prepare for the other.  The exams are similar in content and level of difficulty, but the focus tends to be slightly different, with more emphasis on the nuclear power industry in the NRRPT exam and more general content relevant to a broader range of RP applications in the CRPA(R) exam.

Assuming you want to choose, or at least decide which to pursue first, here’s some things to consider.

The CRPA(R) Exam

The Canadian Radiation Protection Association is our national association for furthering radiation safety inCanada.  Since 2005, the CRPA has offered an annual Registration exam. Successful candidates are given the designation Radiation Safety Professional. The exam is based on a competency profile approved by the CRPA membership, which addresses: radiation safety program administration, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and RP Regulations, licences, working rules, record keeping, employee qualifications, inspections audits and investigations, exposure and dose control, instrumentation and equipment, inventory management (including transportation), personnel dosimetry, contamination control and emergency procedures. There are approximately 40 people who have completed the exam and are now designated by the CRPA as Radiation Safety Professionals. The exam is offered annually at the CRPA conference.

The NRRPT Exam:

The NRRPT (US) was founded in 1976 for the express purpose of advancing the competency of Radiation Protection Technologists. The exam is designed to be relevant to a broad range of fields.  Both the current Board and the Exam Panel include members from many sectors including: nuclear power, national labs (DOE), decommissioning, medical, university, environmental contractors and others. To date, over 5000 people have successfully completed the exam and become “Registrants” of the NRRPT.  While the focus is on RP Techs, the exam has been written by people from many other fields, such as Health Physicists, ALARA managers and RSO’s. The exam is designed to test competency in applied radiation protection, detection and measurement, and fundamentals. The standard for qualification is a competent technologist with five years of experience (and training) who has studied for the exam.

Since 2006, a Canadian version of the exam has been offered. It was designed with assistance from Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power, in order to provide an objective third party standard for their personnel and for contract RP staff brought in for maintenance.   While it was felt that the NRRPT exam was an appropriate standard, much of the content related to US standards and regulations that were not relevant in Canada. There are 22 Registrants who have passed the Canadian version of the exam. The exam is offered whenever there is sufficient demand.

I am interested in a career as a teacher of the Certified Exposure Device Operator course, and am looking for information on how to get started.

There are no specific regulatory requirements for EDOinstructors.  Anyone setting up a new program would have to contact the CNSC with details of the program, as the exam does have to be “recognized” by the CNSC.  This requirement, along with other requirements for the EDOcertification process, are described in CNSC Guidance document G-229.

The onus is on the training institution or trainer to provide the Personnel Certification Division (PCD) of the CNSC with documentation demonstrating how their curriculum satisfies the requirements of G-229 Appendix A, sections A1 to A-13.  Anyone interested in the Certification of Exposure Device Operators should refer to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) website.

Links to a few of the companies that teach the CEDO course are also listed below. You may wish to get in touch with them to see if they have any additional information.  These would also be some of the institutions that might potentially be interested in hiring CEDO course instructors.

INTEG

Canadian Institute for NDT

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

I am working as a Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) in another country and am considering emigrating to Canada. I am wondering whether my training and experience is sufficient for me to be eligible to work as an RSO in Canada, or if there are additional specific educational requirements or qualifications which I must have.

Anyone who can demonstrate a reasonable combination of education and experience may be eligible to work as a Radiation Safety Officer in Canada.  However, they will require specific knowledge of applicable Canadian regulations, such as those of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and/or Health Canada’s Safety Codes.

RSO’s, or persons working in equivalent roles at certain types of facilities, such as nuclear power plants or radiation therapy treatment centers, may also require formal certification through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).   For more information, please contact the CNSC directly.

There is a list of companies on the CRPA website under the “Membership” – “Corporate Members” tab. Many of these companies offer RSO training courses which include an overview of applicable Canadian regulations.  Please visit their websites or contact them directly for detailed information regarding the courses that they offer.

CRPA members who are working as an RSO inCanadaare eligible for professional registration as an RSO with the Association.  This includes a formal, written exam process.  Qualified persons may apply to take the exam, which is available during the CRPA Annual Conference.  More information can be found on the CRPA website under “Membership – Professional Designation”.

My company conducts activities under two Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission licences, one for storage of fixed gauges and another for distribution of nuclear substances. We were wondering if you could suggest any types of related training courses which would be beneficial to us with respect to these licences.

Your CNSC licences require that staff working with radiation devices or nuclear substances receive radiation safety training.  In general terms, this includes:

1.   Your Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) should have some type of formal RSO training.

2.   All “authorized users” (i.e., anyone who will be working directly with the gauges or handling the radioactive sources) must take a radiation safety training course. This course may either be “in-house”, or from an external radiation safety consultant.  It must include topics such as basic radiation safety precautions, CNSC regulations and storage and security requirements. It also must address the radiation safety related policies and procedures specific to your company’s operations.

3.   Any support or auxiliary staff who do not work directly with the gauges or sources, but who may be required to work in the immediate vicinity or are otherwise peripherally involved, should receive basic radiation safety “awareness training”.  This is typically at a much lower level than the training required for authorized users.

4.   Any person who prepares, consigns or receives packages containing nuclear substances will require a Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG) training certificate which specifically covers Class 7 (radioactive) material.  Again, this training may be provided in-house or through one of the many commercial TDG training consultants.

The general CNSC expectation is that refresher training on these topics be provided every few years.  Servicing of fixed gauges or other radiation devices requires additional training, but servicing requires a separate CNSC licence.  It would not be permitted under your current licences.

CNSC document G-313, “Radiation Safety Training Programs for Workers Involved in Licensed Activities with Nuclear Substances and Radiation Devices, and with Class II Nuclear Facilities and Prescribed Equipment“, contains guidelines for developing in-house training programs for workers.

There is a list of companies on the CRPA website under the “Membership” – “Corporate Members” tab. Many of these companies offer these sorts of training courses.  Please visit their websites or contact them directly for detailed information regarding the courses that they offer.

I am a newly qualified radiographer in another country, where I was required to obtain a radiography degree in order to work in my profession. I am considering emigrating to Canada. Is further education or training necessary for me to work as a radiographer in Canada?

In Canada, by law, anyone performing industrial radiography or operating an exposure device must hold a valid Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) Exposure Device Operator (EDO) certification. The following webpage contains information on the requirements for certification, timelines, costs and copies of the application form and guide.

An individual must be certified through the CNSC, regardless of whether or not he/she is certified as an EDO in another country. However, the CNSC will assess each EDO application on a case-by-case basis and may consider alternative types of education, training and experience if they are clearly equivalent to those specified in the application guide.  When applying for EDO certification in Canada, we recommend you included a letter from your current employer and/or the training institution you attended, outlining the training you’ve received and your related work experience, including the types of equipment you are qualified to operate.

We would like to implement a radiation safety & education program related to the hazards of radiation for our employees. We are an industrial workplace and while we do not have any specific radiation at our worksite, our employees do visit other work sites where these types of hazards may exist. Do you have a document we can review with our staff to assist us in giving the correct information?

It appears that what you need is a good, high level overview of the basic concepts of radiation and radiation safety.  We suggest you start by reviewing the presentation on the CRPA “Learning Centre” under the “Resources” tab on the CRPA website.

Another good introductory reference can be found on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) website in the “Reading Room” section, under the heading “Topics – Radiation”.  The CNSC website also has an Educational Resources section for school teachers, which may be of interest.

Health Canada also maintains an excellent introductory overview on radiation, which includes links to more detailed information on special topics such as radon and ultraviolet radiation.