Radiation surveillance program

Radiation is a part of Canada's environment. We have several measurement programs in place to protect the health of Canadians by continually monitoring natural and man-made radiation levels nationwide.

In cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Health Canada's Radiation Surveillance Division is able to trace airborne radiological contamination back to its point of origin, which can be thousands of kilometers away from the point of detection.

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Canadian Radionuclide Monitoring Program

Health Canada's Radiation Surveillance Division (RSD) monitors, detects, and assesses radiation in the environment across Canada and internationally. They use specialized expertise, laboratories and three specialized networks (described below) of radiation monitoring stations at over 100 locations across Canada. This provides the Government of Canada with a basis for risk assessment and management. It also enables the identification of nuclear events.

The capabilities and knowledge available through these monitoring programs also support Health Canada's mandate under the Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan (FNEP) during emergency situations.

The radionuclide monitoring networks run 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Fixed Point Surveillance Network

The Fixed Point Surveillance (FPS) Network is a specialised radiation-monitoring network. It is composed of 80 radiation detection stations located in population centres and other strategic locations across Canada. This network is remotely monitored, and provides an early warning system by monitoring radioactivity in the air and on the ground in real-time. Data from the FPS network is available online, and in real time on the European Radiological Data Exchange Platform (EURDEP).

Canadian Radiological Monitoring Network

The Canadian Radiological Monitoring Network (CRMN) is another specialised radiation-monitoring network that routinely monitors airborne and deposited radioactivity in the environment. It detects both natural and man-made radiation, including downstream products such as drinking water and food.

The CRMN has been in operation since 1959 and currently includes 28 monitoring stations across the country. The data from these stations has helped to establish long-term trends in radioactivity from natural contributions, and identified radioactivity generated by human activities such as historical fallout, nuclear power generation, medical isotope production, and international nuclear or radiological incidents. Overall, this has helped to analyze radioactivity in the Canadian environment. Full datasets for the CRMN are available on the Open Government Portal, and data is added to the Portal on a regular basis.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Monitoring

Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Health Canada contributes directly to this Treaty by monitoring atmospheric radioactivity under the Treaty's verification system and contributing its expertise and atmospheric radioactivity monitoring data to the CTBT International Monitoring System (IMS).

The IMS monitors radioactivity in the atmosphere that could come from a nuclear detonation, in the form of radioactive particulate matter and noble gases. Health Canada's contribution to the IMS consists of ultra-sensitive air-sampling equipment at four stations in Canada and the operation of a certified radionuclide laboratory in Ottawa. The laboratory performs additional detailed analyses of samples from the IMS. These stations and laboratory are part of Canada's international commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Radionuclide analysis

Health Canada provides the radionuclide analysis for Natural Resources Canada's Canadian National Data Centre (NDC). Using a sophisticated analytical software, the Canadian NDC is able to examine worldwide data to determine if radionuclide emissions are from nuclear explosions or from other sources.

The systems used by the Canadian NDC are the same systems used by National Monitoring data sets. This allows for an analysis of significant radiological releases in Canada and abroad.

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