Nuclear Energy Worker Information Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who is the CNSC?

A. The CNSC is the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the regulator of the Canadian nuclear industry. The CNSC is an independent agency within the government of Canada.

Q. What does NEW mean?

A. The acronym NEW stands for Nuclear Energy Worker. A NEW is defined in the CNSC Radiation Protection Regulations as "a person who is required, in the course of the person's business or occupation in connection with a nuclear substance or nuclear facility, to perform duties in such circumstances that there is a reasonable probability that the person may receive a dose of radiation that is greater than the prescribed limit for the general public."

Q. Do I have to become a Nuclear Energy Worker?

A. If you are an authorized radioisotope user, or have unescorted access rights to nuclear facilities or High Level laboratories then you must be made a NEW as per the policy set forth by the Health Physics Advisory Committee.

Q. How do I become a Nuclear Energy Worker?

A. Download the “Nuclear Energy Worker Registration Form”. Read the information and fill in all of the required fields and return it to Health Physics as soon as possible. Under the Radiation Protection Regulations, you must be provided with the following information in writing:

  • the fact that you are designated as a NEW;
  • the risks and hazards associated with ionizing radiation (including the risk to the developing embryo and foetus);
  • the dose limits applicable to NEWs;
  • your anticipated dose levels

And, you must provide written acknowledgement that you have been provided with this information in writing.

At McMaster, you must also have completed training with Health Physics that advised you of these matters. If you have not completed this training, you can arrange it through the Health Physics office at 24226.

Q. Why do I have to supply information like my Social Insurance Number to become designated as a NEW?

A. Such information is required in order for the National Dose registry to assign a dose record to your name. Consequently, the CNSC uses this information to ensure that workers and licensees are adhering to the regulations. All of this information is protected under the Privacy Act. Note that the University is required by law (the Radiation Protection Regulations) to collect this information.

Q. I was already made an Atomic Energy Worker years ago. Isn’t that the same?

A. No. Atomic Radiation Worker status had validity under the previous Act and Regulations. It has been replaced by Nuclear Energy Worker status under the new Act and Regulations. You must be declared a NEW to continue your work.

Q. I was never made an Atomic Energy Worker – why do I now need to be made an NEW?

A. The CNSC is the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the regulator of the Canadian nuclear industry. The CNSC is an independent agency within the government of Canada.

Q. Who is the CNSC?

A. Dose limits for members of the public are much lower in the new regulations than they were in the old – for example the annual limit on effective dose was lowered from 5 mSv to 1 mSv. In addition, CNSC staff have indicated that having a non-declared person exceed the public dose limit may result in serious licence restrictions or even prosecution under the new act and regulations. The combined effect is that we must take a much broader approach to designation of workers. As mentioned earlier, the Health Physics Advisory Committee has established a policy that all authorized users and persons with unescorted access to the nuclear facilities and High Level laboratories must be designated as NEWs.

Q. Are there any exceptions?

A. Yes. At the discretion of Health Physics, persons handling less than one exemption quantity (the licensable quantity of radioactive material under the CNS Act and Regulations) may be exempted from the requirement. This is primarily intended for application in undergraduate laboratories where large numbers of students may handle very small quantities of radioactive material under tightly controlled conditions.

Q. How do my legal dose limits change when I am declared a NEW?

A. The regulatory dose limits are higher for a Nuclear Energy Worker than for a member of the public. For example, the annual limit on effective dose for a member of the public is 1 mSv. The annual limit on effective dose for a NEW works out to an average of 20 mSv per year – with not more than 50 mSv in any one year. Other regulatory dose limits, such as those for skin and extremities are ten times higher for an NEW than they are for a member of the public.

Q. With higher dose limits, does this mean that the University won’t pay attention to my exposures?

A. No. Part of the University radiation safety programs is establishing lower internal dose limits called Administrative Control Levels that are suited to your work. For example, if you work in a Basic Level laboratory, the Administrative Control Level for your annual effective dose is 2 mSv. If this limit is exceeded, we are required to do a formal investigation and provide a report to the Health Physics Advisory Committee and the CNSC. Note, under the old Act and Regulations, the annual limit on effective dose for a member of the public was 5 mSv.

Q. What should I do if I am a NEW and I find out that I am pregnant?

A. It is your duty as a Nuclear Energy Worker to inform Health Physics as soon as you know you are pregnant. This is a requirement of the law (the Radiation Protection Regulations) and of the University Radiation Safety Programs. Please download and complete the Pregnancy Declaration form on our website and submit it to Health Physics.

Q. What will happen after I declare my pregnancy?

A. There are different regulations that apply to Pregnant NEWs, and Health Physics must identify all such cases. We will review your work situation. In most cases, no accommodations or restrictions are required. If there are restrictions required then we will speak with you about them. Generally, if restrictions are required, we will also need to advise your supervisor of the restrictions, but we will speak to you first. Your pregnancy declaration is treated as confidential once completed.

Q. I am a Pregnant NEW. If I have concerns about my work with Radioactive material, is there someone with whom I can address these concerns?

A. A representative from Health Physics will always be available to help you with any concerns regarding handling radioactive material or sources. Contact our office at x 24226.

Q. Where can I read about NEW status for myself?

A. You can access the Radiation Safety Regulations under the Canadian Nuclear Safety and Control Act at http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/licensees/pdf/sor203.pdf Relevant information to NEW status is in Section 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13.