Atomic Workers Recognition Program
Recognizing and honouring the exceptional service of those personnel who responded in Chalk River Laboratories clean-up efforts
Status: Application period closed
The Atomic Workers Recognition Program is no longer accepting applications submitted after March 31, 2023. However, the Program Office will continue to process applications that were submitted by March 31, 2023, where no decision has been issued. Each application that continues to be processed will receive a decision issued in writing. We thank you for your patience if you have not yet received a decision.
Canada places the highest priority on health, safety and environmental protection in all aspects of the nuclear industry. Indeed, workers in Canada’s nuclear industry have always been dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of Canadians and the environment.
This dedication is exemplified by the actions of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) employees who bravely responded to nuclear incidents at Chalk River Laboratories in 1952 and 1958.
In the 1950s, Ontario’s Chalk River Laboratories was one of the leading global sites for cutting-edge atomic science of the time. In 1952 and 1958, there were incidents that required AECL and Department of National Defence (DND) personnel to contain and cleanup contaminated sites. Approximately 1,500 civilians participated in the cleanups of both incidents.
The lessons learned from these events helped AECL science and technology workers to develop even safer and cleaner nuclear technologies, culminating in the highly successful CANDU reactors that have provided safe, reliable power in countries all around the world for decades.
In acknowledgement of their exceptional service to the nation in a time of crisis, each eligible individual will receive a certificate for extraordinary service to Canada to recognize the Atomic Worker. Those who are eligible will also receive a one-time ex gratia payment of $28,500.
Who is eligible?
AECL employees and those contracted by AECL who played an important role in either of the two major cleanup efforts at Chalk River Laboratories are eligible.
This payment applies to individuals who worked on the cleanups of the two reactor accidents at the site:
- Between December 12, 1952, and December 31, 1953; or
- Between May 23, 1958, and December 31, 1958
If the individual is no longer living, an application from their estate, primary beneficiary or primary caregiver will be considered.
How do I know whether to apply as an executor, primary beneficiary or primary caregiver?
If the Atomic Worker is deceased at the time when the application is made, consideration will be given to providing the ex gratia payment to:
- the worker’s estate where a will exists and the distribution of the estate is not complete,
- to the primary beneficiary or primary beneficiaries* of the will where the distribution of the estate has been completed, or
- to the primary caregiver or primary caregivers* in the case where the Atomic Worker never had a will.
If the Atomic Worker had a will and the distribution of the Atomic Worker’s estate is not complete, and you are the executor, you can apply to the program as an executor (only one executor need apply). If deemed eligible, the payment would be issued to the Atomic Worker’s estate.
If the Atomic Worker had a will and the distribution of the estate is complete, you would apply as a primary beneficiary. Under this category, the program requires that a traditional certified copy of the will be provided to demonstrate that you are a primary beneficiary of the Atomic Worker’s estate as defined under the program’s eligibility requirements set out in the Application Guide and Form.
If the Atomic Worker had no will, you may be able to qualify as a primary caregiver under the program if you meet the eligibility criteria and definition of primary caregiver set out in the Application Guide and Form. The primary caregiver category was developed specifically to address circumstances when an Atomic Worker passed away without a will.
*Only applicable if the primary beneficiary or primary caregiver was alive when the program came into effect on February 1, 2022.
Primary beneficiary examples:
How do I know if I was the primary beneficiary of the Atomic Worker’s will?
Under the Atomic Workers Recognition Program, a primary beneficiary is the first person (or persons) in the will entitled to the residue of the Atomic Worker’s estate that survived the Atomic Worker when he or she passed away. In many instances this is the spouse. In other instances, it may be the children. Your eligibility would be determined by what was in the Atomic Worker’s will.
The Order in Council sets out the technical language that applies to the program’s definition of primary beneficiary. It states that the Minister is authorized to make payments “(b) if the worker died testate and the distribution of the estate or the liquidation of the succession of the worker has been completed, to the natural person who is entitled under the will to the residue of the estate or succession and who is alive at the date this Order is made or, if there are two or more such persons, to those persons on a pro rata basis of their share of the residue.”
Can I apply for the payment if my father, who survived my mother (the Atomic Worker) but has since passed away, was the only primary beneficiary of my mother’s will?
No. Because your father survived your mother and was the only primary beneficiary of her will, you are not eligible for an ex gratia payment. Secondary beneficiaries, which are frequently living family members of the Atomic Worker, are ineligible.
My mother passed away before my father, the Atomic Worker. Are my brother and I eligible if we were the next persons in the will entitled to the residue of my father’s estate after my mother?
The first person identified in the will as the beneficiary of the residue of your father’s estate, which was your mother, died before the Atomic Worker. In this case, because you and your brother survived your father and your mother did not, you may be the primary beneficiaries if you were identified as the next beneficiaries of the residue of the estate according to the will. Therefore, you may be eligible, pending the necessary application and supporting documentation.
If you qualify, the ex gratia payment would be divided proportionately to what is set out in the will.
My deceased mother was the Atomic Worker’s spouse and I am the primary beneficiary and executor of her estate. Can I qualify for an ex gratia payment?
You cannot qualify as an executor or primary beneficiary of your deceased mother under the program because she was not the Atomic Worker. You can only qualify for an ex gratia payment under the program if you meet one of the three eligibility categories set out in the Application Guide and Form and Order in Council as it pertains to a deceased Atomic Worker.
Primary caregiver examples:
My father was the primary caregiver for my mother, who was an Atomic Worker. My parents both died some years ago, can I apply for the payment?
You are ineligible if your father was the primary caregiver for your mother and you do not meet the definition of primary caregiver.
The primary caregiver is someone who, if the worker died without a will, was the adult who was ordinarily living with the worker (for a continuous period of at least one year) at the time of the worker’s death and was primarily responsible for providing care to the worker without remuneration. If there are two or more such persons, consideration will be given to ex gratia payment divided equally. The Application Guide and Form (PDF, 2,493 KB) sets out the documentation that is required to substantiate an application as primary caregiver of the Atomic Worker.
Please note: In instances where the Atomic Worker and their spouse are both deceased, living family members of the Atomic Worker are often ineligible for an ex gratia payment.
My deceased parent was the primary caregiver of the Atomic Worker. Can I qualify for an ex gratia payment?
You cannot qualify as the child of the primary caregiver of an Atomic Worker when both are deceased. You can only qualify as a primary caregiver under the program if you yourself were the primary caregiver to the Atomic Worker.
Find out more
The application guide says I need to provide a “traditional certified copy” of documents. What does that mean?
The program requires that applicants provide traditional certified copies of important documents with their application (e.g., proof of death and will of the Atomic Worker, power of attorney and medical certificate, proof of legal appointment as estate representative, marriage certificate, or any other important documents).
A traditional certified copy is a normal photocopy of the original document that has been certified by a professional. The purpose is to certify that the photocopy is a true copy of the original document, which has not been altered in any way. This avoids you needing to submit original documents. NOTE: The Atomic Workers Recognition Program will not return original documents that are provided with an application. The photocopy must be readable, and it must be certified by a professional.
The Application Guide and Form (PDF, 2,493 KB) provides further information on how to have a normal photocopy of an original document certified by a professional.
Can Natural Resources Canada provide me with the list of those who were involved in the cleanups, or confirm if my name (or the name of my relative) is on that list?
When Natural Resources Canada reviews your application, it will contact Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to confirm that the name provided was part of the cleanups.
What documents are needed to establish that one was a primary caregiver?
The primary caregiver is someone who, if the worker died without a will, was the adult who was ordinarily living with the worker (for a continuous period of at least one year) at the time of the worker’s death and was primarily responsible for providing care to the worker without being paid to do so. If there are two or more such people, the ex gratia payment will be divided equally.
In addition to providing the Atomic Worker’s death certificate, the primary caregiver needs to complete Section F of the Application Guide and Form (PDF, 2,493 KB) to substantiate that they were a primary caregiver. This Application Guide and Form outlines important documentation to prove that one was a primary caregiver. This includes providing two of the following: proof of joint ownership of residential property; rental agreement showing both the applicant and Atomic Worker as occupants; proof of a joint utility account; joint vehicle insurance documents; copies of government-issued documents showing the same address for the applicant and Atomic Worker; or other documents that would show the applicant and Atomic Worker had the same address.
How will the payment be provided to me?
Once Natural Resources Canada has approved the application, the applicant will need to provide copies of a government-issued photo ID and another document with the applicant’s name and address (e.g., a utility bill), as well as a signed Attestation and Release form in order for the Program to proceed with issuing a cheque for payment by mail. The applicant will be contacted by the Program for this information.
It costs money to provide some of the forms required for my application. Will NRCan be reimbursing me?
Upon request, the Atomic Workers Recognition Program will mail out a printed application package to you and provide a postage-paid return envelope. Any other costs you may incur to complete an application are not covered by the Program.
However, if you wish to confirm a worker’s status before submitting an application, AECL would be happy to assist you. To confirm employment of an Atomic Worker, please contact AECL at email@example.com.
My application was declined. Can I request a review?
A review of this decision may be requested within 30 days of the date of your letter on the basis that you provide new information that is relevant to determining that you meet the program eligibility criteria. Unfortunately, a request for a review on the basis that you disagree with the program eligibility criteria set out in the Application Guide and Form will not be considered, nor will materials that are not relevant for the purposes of determining program eligibility.
A request for review must be submitted in writing, with new information and a letter of explanation, to the following address, and you will be notified in writing of the results:
Attention: Atomic Workers Recognition Program Office
Natural Resources Canada
580 Booth Street, 17th Floor
Ottawa ON K1A 0E4
History of the events
Credit: Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
In the mid-twentieth century, Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario was one of the leading global sites for cutting-edge atomic science. In 1952 and 1958, there were incidents that required AECL and DND personnel to contain and cleanup contaminated reactors. DND personnel who participated in the cleanups were recognized through the Atomic Veterans Recognition Program.
To provide similar recognition to the AECL civilian personnel who worked to cleanup these incidents and protect Canadians, the Government of Canada, through Natural Resources Canada, has established the AWRP.
Nuclear energy in Canada
Credit: Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
Following the incidents in the 1950s, AECL and its workers went on to develop the CANDU reactor technology. It has been a major source of safe, clean and reliable nuclear power in Ontario since the 1970s, currently producing 60 percent of Ontario’s energy.
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