Editor’s Message, February 2021
Happy New Year!
What a year this past year has been! Our first holiday season during the pandemic provided a bit more time than usual for quiet reflection due to the limitations on gatherings. Although I did miss some of the usual hustle and bustle that comes with visiting friends and family over the break, I also found myself much more refreshed after the two weeks I was fortunate enough to have off. Hope you all had a good break as well.
As I prepare this article, I am working through my second Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) virtual inspection in less than four months. In September, our safety control area management system was inspected. The current inspection includes radiation protection, fitness for service, and our Class II 35 MeV accelerator licence.
The format for both inspections has essentially been the same. An effort is made to mimic the on-site inspection format, but there are some unavoidable differences. The main difference is perhaps the preparation well in advance to ensure the meetings are organized effectively and don’t get paralyzed by technical difficulties. A couple of meetings in advance to iron out the tech issues and a daily “connection check” at the start of each day ensured that the inspection went very smoothly. For the most part, our schedule has been easy to meet, but it has been reassuring to know that flexibility is still possible if necessary.
Both inspections involved providing a large volume of records in advance. Although this was a considerable amount of work, the process made the time spent with the project officer and specialists very focused and productive. Everyone was very prepared.
The most recent inspection included virtual tours of both our Class 1B and Class 2 facilities. For me, that meant a lot of walking along a pre-planned route. Some of our areas are not available for occupancy during operations, so some of the tour was pre-recorded. I used a simple Windows Notebook for the tour, and it worked quite well. I had no real connectivity issues while moving around the facility, the picture was good, and the format allowed for discussion on observations. In some areas the sound was perhaps a bit poor because of background noise, but overall the tour went smoothly. The CNSC inspector did mention that the video feed was a bit tiring to watch, so an occasional break was appreciated.
Because we are in Western Canada, the active inspection time with our project officer and specialists has been mostly limited to mornings for us. This has left our afternoons mostly free to get caught up on daily emails and actually complete some work not related to the inspection. There are, of course, occasional follow-up questions to address or requests for additional records needed to satisfy the inspection team.
Overall, I can see benefits of the virtual format for us. Meeting virtually focuses the inspection a bit better, and when the connection is off the meeting is definitely over! I expect CNSC staff do not get the same perspective as they would if they were inside the facility and personally meeting staff, but they likely don’t miss the weeks of travel and being away from their families. It will be interesting to see how the use of virtual tools fits into the post-pandemic inspection requirements.
Before I sign off, I wanted to remind our CRPA corporate members that one of their benefits of membership is free job postings on the CRPA website! For non-members, the fee is $150. Visit the CRPA website to submit a job posting.