Bill C-4 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.
Herb Dhaliwal Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
November 27th, 2007 / 10:15 a.m.
Shawn-Patrick Stensil Energy and Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace Canada
Good morning. My name is Shawn-Patrick Stensil, and I am an energy and climate campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. I'll make my presentation in English, but I'll be pleased to hear your questions in French.
I'd like to thank the committee for this opportunity to present to you today.
In ten short minutes, I'm going to speak to you of three general issues of concern for Greenpeace regarding the proposed Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act.
First, the revisions to the act that have been put forward are indicative of how nuclear policy decisions are made in Canada. I would urge the committee to look further into this bill, as well as other nuclear policy decisions that are being made behind closed doors.
Second, I'd like to call into question the need for the Nuclear Liability Act and address specific issues of concern in the bill.
Third, I'd like to raise an issue of what I see as a policy gap between the Nuclear Liability Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in regard to nuclear terrorism.
First, in regard to the Nuclear Liability Act as an example of how policy decisions are made on nuclear issues in Canada, I would like to urge the committee to take a closer look at this bill and seek the opinion of many more non-industry stakeholders.
As background, in January 2006 Greenpeace Canada submitted a petition to the federal environment commissioner regarding the failure of Natural Resources Canada to bring revisions to the Nuclear Liability Act. This followed two previous petitions by a grassroots group called Citizens for Renewable Energy, to which Natural Resources Canada had said they would bring revisions by the end of 2005.
I have requested the clerk to provide the committee with copies of this petition.
In the petition, we cited numerous documents that Greenpeace had acquired through access to information showing that Natural Resources Canada had intentionally avoided consulting with non-industry stakeholders, such as the City of Toronto and environmental groups, regarding revisions to the Nuclear Liability Act, which is in front of you today, while it had “carried out extensive consultations with the nuclear industry”. Other correspondence showed that despite long-time public demands for revisions to the act, the nuclear industry was advising the government against renewing the act—probably for some reasons of political expedience; I'm not sure.
It is noteworthy that in 2003, Natural Resources Canada pushed through fairly quickly the passage of what was called Bill C-4 at the time, which amended the previous act, in order to meet the need of Bruce Power—a private nuclear company that had formed since 2000—to indemnify investors who were looking to invest in its project. So it quickly pushed through amendments to the act but was holding back on the wider revisions.
All this is to say that this act has been held up for many years seemingly to suit the desires of the nuclear industry. Natural Resources Canada has intentionally avoided consulting the public and non-industry stakeholders, probably because doing so raises a number of big issues for the nuclear industry: one, the threat of accidents, and two, the inherent subsidies that go along with this act.
As a recommendation to the committee, I would like to ask the committee to look at this bill more in depth and to seek the advice and perspectives of people outside the industry. It's the nuclear industry who are the risk-makers; we as Canadians are the risk-takers in this act implicitly, and we have the right to be consulted on that.
I'd like now to speak to the need for the Nuclear Liability Act and to specific concerns about the act.
I would like to say to the committee that the fact that we have this act in front of us should underline the fact that the nuclear industry has failed to develop into an independent and viable industry, despite years of trying and subsidies. Nuclear protection regimes began in the 1950s, and the idea at the time was to give the industry a running start to prove itself. The United States passed the Price-Anderson Act. We've been renewing these acts for 40 years, because the industry has never been able to gain the confidence of the insurance industry to be completely independent without these acts.
It has been estimated that in Canada the current limit on liability amounts to a subsidy of approximately 1¢ to 4¢ per kilowatt hour. As I mention in my petition to the auditor, Greenpeace also discovered that post-September 11 the federal government had begun assuming increased insurance costs for terrorist risk coverage for the industry. The government's stated intent was to avoid the adverse effects of high premium increases on nuclear power competitiveness in a deregulated electricity market. What was the cost of this? It was about $200,000.
The question why we are paying for it should furrow some eyebrows. Why should Canadians and the environment at large be subject to the risks that exceed the capacity of the insurance market? This goes against the principle of polluter pays which, I would remind the committee, Canada has ratified or signed onto in numerous international agreements. It is Canadians who will be forced to bear the expense and risks of a nuclear accident. This is an unacceptable subsidy to the industry.
I would now like now to address a number of specific concerns, because I think my time is running out.
First, regarding the increase to $650 million, that amount is a limit not based on the projected costs of a nuclear accident, but on what the global insurance industry has admitted it can handle. It is noteworthy that a 2006 federal government study of the costs of a dirty-bomb attack in downtown Toronto that released a small amount of radiation over four kilometres concluded that the costs of such a small accident would be $24 billion. That is way out of sync with what we're being told at the committee today for an accident releasing a small amount of radioactivity at a nuclear site. It is difficult to see, then, how even a small-scale release of radioactivity could be covered by the limits established in this bill, let alone a Chernobyl-scale event occurring in Canada—which the federal government has completely discounted.
As I mentioned in my petition to the environment commissioner, Greenpeace is concerned about the quality, rigour, and transparency of the risk studies carried out by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, studies that are used to claim that Chernobyl-style accidents wouldn't occur. I don't have time to discuss this in depth, but I would encourage the committee to investigate it.
It is Greenpeace's position that this cap on liability is inadequate, and nothing should stop this committee from recommending that the cap be taken off, as Germany has done. You could still insure up to $650 million, take the cap off, and then examine other options that have been mentioned this morning, such as industry pooling, so that we can internalize more of the costs of the nuclear industry.
A second issue I'd like to raise is the period for compensating victims, which has been extended from 10 to 30 years. The bill needs to address the nature of nuclear accidents. The impacts from radiation exposure, such as cancer and genetic damage, can take long periods to appear and then may be difficult to trace or attribute. Proving causation is obviously a cause for concern in regard to the proposed 30-year limitation period. For example, if it takes 10 years to prove the link between radioactive emissions and, say, an inter-generational effect, then a 30-year limit is clearly too short for claimants. We should extend this period.
Finally, I'd like to raise an issue I also raised in my petition regarding a gap in federal legislation between the Nuclear Liability Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This former act excludes the damages and the costs from a nuclear incident caused by terrorism. Implicitly, that means we Canadians are assuming the risks for a terrorist act such as that. If so, we should have the ability to evaluate and discuss in public what those potential impacts could be. A forum for this may be the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. During environmental assessment hearings on nuclear projects in the past, such as the current life extension of Pickering B, Greenpeace requested that terrorist attacks be addressed in the Environmental Assessment Act. The response from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was that this was not a requirement under CEAA and therefore they don't have to do it.
I would note for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that in the United States last year, a federal court, as well as the Supreme Court, directed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that in licensing decisions they had to consider the environmental impacts of a terrorist attack. We should be making those amendments to our legislation here in Canada, so that at least the people who are taking on the risks will be aware of the full costs.
With that, I believe my ten minutes may be up.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Points of Order
The Royal Assent
February 13th, 2003 / 10:25 a.m.
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
February 13, 2003
I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable John Major, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 13th day of February, 2003, at 8:50 a.m.
Secretary to the Governor General
The schedule indicates the bill assented to was Bill C-4, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act--Chapter No. 1.
Request for Emergency Debate
December 10th, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
Pursuant to order made on Friday, December 6 the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-4.
Call in the members.
(The House divided on the Motion, which was agreed on the following division:)
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
December 6th, 2002 / 12:25 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
The question is on third reading of Bill C-4. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
December 6th, 2002 / 12:20 p.m.
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among members about the vote that will eventually happen on Bill C-4. To permit as many members as possible to participate on this, I would like to move the following motion. I move:
That, when no member rises to speak during consideration of Bill C-4, the question shall be put and a division thereon deemed to have been requested and deferred until Tuesday, December 10 at 3:00 p.m.
Business of the House
Oral Question Period
December 5th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, today we will continue with the business of supply. I understand that the votes are scheduled for a 5:15 p.m. bell, followed by the votes of course.
Tomorrow the House will consider the message from the Senate with regard to Bill C-10, the Criminal Code amendment.
In spite of the fact that we have debated it extensively, the government is prepared to offer yet another day, next Monday, with regard to debating the Kyoto protocol.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we will return if necessary to Bill C-10, and if and when completed, followed by Bill C-4, the nuclear safety bill with the possibility of also doing Bill C-3, Canada pension plan amendments, and Bill C-15, the lobbyists registration bill.
While I am on my feet I might as well give the plan for the rest of next week. Next Thursday and Friday, I will be calling the annual prebudget consultation debate.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
December 4th, 2002 / 5:15 p.m.
Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is a good time to get up and talk on this very important issue. Since we have been on debate for some time today, I am going to emphasize for those who might be joining in late to this wonderful debate today that Bill C-4 amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to limit the current liability provisions related to the cost of cleanup stemming from an incident impacting the environment.
As currently defined in subsection 46(3), any person with an interest in the affected land or facility is potentially liable for the cost of cleaning up any contamination resulting from incident. This includes not only the owner and operators but also the mortgage lender or holder of a security interest in the land. The proposed amendment would narrow the scope of potential liability to include only the owners and operators.
Some who have spoken here today have indicated that it just seems unfair somehow that we would hold the lender liable for lending a company money and that if there is a huge disaster the lender should not have to pay.
I would suggest that part of the reason this type of wording was put in the act initially is that there was an understanding, a recognition, that any type of nuclear disaster is far more detrimental than just the ordinary realm of liability that we might have in an investment in a clothing store down the street or, for that matter, a mine, even though I fully recognize, as my colleague from the Alliance has indicated, that after a mine closes down residue and tailings often are left, which affect the environment and the lives of those around the mine. I would suggest that absolutely there should be greater liability for the cleanup and who is responsible.
Under this act, though, I believe it was recognized that there was greater risk and that as a result there was greater need for anyone even thinking of being part of that type of operation to recognize that there was a really strong liability.
I would suggest that lenders to a nuclear facility are going to make a profit off the interest on that loan and as a result profit from whatever that business does, in this case the nuclear business. Whatever it does, the lenders are going to profit from it. Quite frankly, after the fact, after an accident happens, the people in a large area around the plant are affected. Usually in a nuclear accident it not just that little spot where the plant is located that is affected. Huge areas all around it, if not throughout the world, are affected. As a result, there is greater liability. For that reason, I believe, there was an intent, and a good intent, to see this as being more serious and to have a greater risk of liability.
I believe there is no question that the $75 million maximum liability that can be charged to the owner or operator of the nuclear plant at this point would hardly come close to being able to address some of the costs that would probably be there as the result of an accident.
The Chernobyl reactor incident a number of years ago in the Ukraine seems so far away. Somehow we cannot imagine anything like that ever happening here in Canada, but let us face it, the cost of the Chernobyl accident was beyond anything we can imagine. Certainly there was the cost to the environment, the land itself, the cost to businesses and other industries in that area, the cost of the numerous lives that were lost, and the cost of the medical treatment that has resulted for years and years afterwards as a result of the Chernobyl accident. These are not just some little business operations going bad and affecting their own little 40 acres. These incidents will affect a huge area and the whole country, if not the world and they cannot be seen in the same way.
Quite frankly, I believe the government would have everyone believe that this is just a little housekeeping incident, that we have to get this out of there, that it was never intended to be there.
I do not agree. I think there was an absolute intent for it to be there and it should stay as is. The government would have us fast track this and keep the public debate down as much as possible, and as a result, I believe,would put the Canadian taxpayers at risk for a huge cost. As I have indicated, should there be an accident, should there be liability and $75 million will not cover the cost, who would end up covering it? If it is a private, independent operation, the plant would go bankrupt. If it goes bankrupt, who pays? The operators could not pay any more. They could go off somewhere else under another name and keep operating or doing whatever. We often see that happening with businesses that get into trouble. Those who would pay are the Canadian taxpayers.
I am extremely disappointed that members from the Alliance would not wholeheartedly say that there is no way the Canadian taxpayers should be stuck with that kind of cost, that we must have something in place to ensure that the Canadian taxpayers do not end up bearing the brunt. I have not heard that from them, which is disappointing, because quite frankly every one of us here should be ensuring that the Canadian taxpayers do not have to pay for those kinds of disasters.
I feel the same way about mines or any kind of operation that will leave environmental devastation behind. We have seen a situation with a mine in the Yukon, I believe, where the owner claimed bankruptcy and left. The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs took on the responsibility and the government ultimately ended up cleaning up the mess at taxpayers' expense after a whole bunch of shareholders made money over a period of years. The operator of the mine was probably proclaimed a wonderful person because he or she did such a great business job, but ultimately the taxpayers of Canada bore the brunt.
That says nothing about the numerous times when there is no environmental cleanup. It sits there because there is not enough money to clean it up, because there is not a fund in place to ensure that there is a cleanup after different operations are in place. Yes, there are plans, so that an operator has to close things up to make sure that if people walk by they will not fall down a hole. Those types of rules are in place, but as far as the long term environmental consequences of some of those mines, there is no cleanup.
I think we need to change that. In the shipping of oil there is a process in place whereby each company puts so much money into a sort of insurance plan. We will call it that for lack of the exact name. If there is an accident, those funds can be accessed to clean it up. Why we do not have that in place for numerous other businesses is beyond me, but it is not there. I think it will come as people become more and more conscious of the need to protect the environment, as they have as a result of climate change and as a result of our wonderful debate on the Kyoto accord. People are becoming more conscious of it and as a result want to do whatever they can to ensure that the environment is sustained for years to come.
Numerous colleagues of mine today have also commented on the alternatives to nuclear power plants. Certainly there are numerous alternatives now. Yes, we can pooh-pooh them all the way, but I remember the first time I ever heard about wind energy. I wondered how the heck we could ever put it in place. Then I started reading more about it. We get a lot of information as members of Parliament and numerous pieces of information on wind energy began coming in. I started thinking about it. It is not as if this is something new. We have had operating windmills in place for years, not with the magnitude of operations that we need in some areas, but there is real potential for wind energy. It is being utilized in a number of places. Certainly we should expand on those types of operations whenever we possibly can. Whatever method of clean energy we can put in place is where we should be directing our efforts.
I recognize that not all of them will have 100% perfect results. What we do know is that a number of sources of energy are not good to be using. I am not suggesting for one moment that we should say to heck with the whole fossil fuel industry. Quite frankly, as my colleague from the Canadian Alliance indicated, our fossil fuels will run out. By reducing, adapting and readapting our usage, we are not necessarily saying to heck with our fossil fuel industry, we are extending the life of that industry and, through that process, working on cleaner forms of energy and ensuring that we are doing what is best for our country and ultimately for the world.
Why we would want to bring forth a change to a bill that would risk Canadian taxpayers having to offset the cost is beyond me. If a financial institution decides not to invest in an operation because it is concerned about the liability, I think that is a good thing. If it decides to invest because it is a good operation, it makes sure that its investment dollars are protected and that those types of accidents do not happen. It also ensures that an agreement is in place and that it keeps tabs on that operation so no consequences could ultimately hit the institution. I think that is a good, sound way of doing things. That is being responsible. It has been in place for a few years now and it has not been a problem but somehow it has become a problem now in the push to privatize the nuclear industry.
I know there are those who believe that private industry is best and that the capital way and the market economy are the way to go, and in some instances we may have had some success, but in a lot instances we have not had success. We know that with cuts here and there proper safety methods are used.
In the case, I believe, of the Bruce plants, we see that there needs to be literally millions of dollars invested to bring them up to snuff, so to speak, to make them safe. One has to wonder how they were allowed to reach that point and how much a private company will continue putting in. I just do not have the faith that it will be done in a safe manner unless there is a strong demand from their loaning institution to make sure they do that. Usually they just walk away from it.
I would rather not get into the whole privatization-public argument, even though all we have to do is talk about Manitoba Telephone System, a public institution that was sold. I make no bones about this when I say that we certainly do not have as good a service as we had before it was sold, bar none. We would find very few people in Manitoba, who had service under the old MTS and now have it under the new company, who would say that it is better today, because it is not. It just is not. It just wants to make money where money can be made. It does not want to invest in the province as a whole. It does not want to look at the benefits for all the people. It just wants to make a quick buck and to heck with everybody else.
I do not think that is the way certain operations should be put in place. Certain things should be done for the benefit of everyone, which is how this country was formed. People recognized that they were here to support each other, province by province by province, in different areas when it was needed. The people in a unified country support each other.
I think we have lost sight of that. We have little areas where people want to protect their 40 acres and do not care what anyone else does. We have lost track of what is important, and that is building a country and supporting each other.
No one is suggesting that we totally wipe out any industry when it comes to fossil fuels. It is just a matter of balancing and putting things in practice so that we have long term sustainability, we have a country for which we can be proud, and we have a country where the environment is safe for numerous generations to come.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
December 4th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
December 4th, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.
Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to take part in this debate on Bill C-4.
As I sit and listen to the debate I am amazed at how muddy the water can become on a filibuster and how irrelevant some of the arguments are to what is before us. I am amazed that the self-interest of the Bloc Quebecois does not seem to have any bounds. The development of fossil fuel energy in Canada has been one of the major reasons for our standard of living and our prosperity. Certainly Quebeckers enjoy driving their cars and moving their goods as much as anybody else in Canada. It just blows me away. However, I do not want to get carried away on that kind of debate because I want to stay more focused on what we are dealing with here today.
It is a seven word amendment to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. It seems to me that the amendment before us is clear and simple. It would remove the responsibility of liability from the lending institution, not all responsibility of liability, but liability over and above the investment that the lending institution makes in the project. It, like in any other project or any other loan that the institution would make, would be liable for the amount of the loan and the loss of that loan should the project fail. However, this particular act as it existed when we passed it back in 1997, and I will address that a little later, held the lending institution responsible for the negligence of an operator in a contamination of a site over and above the amount that institution had invested in the project. That seems ludicrous to me.
When a mine, coal-fired power plant, or a wind farm goes out and looks for financing for a project and puts together a financing package, no one would expect that the lending institution that helps to finance that project would be held liable over and above the amount of the loan for negligence on behalf of the operator of that mine, wind farm or coal-fired generating station.
So why then would anybody, the NDP, the Bloc or a few members of the Liberal Party, believe that the lending institution should be liable in the case of a nuclear facility over and above the amount of the loan that it would be writing for a project? It seems straightforward and simple, yet it has become complicated and the target of such a filibuster in the House. I find it quite amazing.
I want to hold the government responsible in some measure for what is happening with this simple bill. The government has known about this anomaly in the act for some time. It was aware of it when Parliament was recalled around the beginning of October of this year. It did nothing about it until the bill was introduced not that long ago. It expressed this concern that the refurbishing of the Bruce Power facility could not proceed until the bill was passed and so we have some urgency here.
The government could have put this into the mix and we probably could have passed it a long time ago. However it did not. The government is responsible for the fact that we only have a week and a half to go before the Christmas break and the only way it will get the bill through is to use closure once again, which is unacceptable. I feel the government is in some way responsible for this filibuster and what is going on here.
We dealt with the bill in committee where various interest groups made representations to me. Everyone I spoke to, including Bruce Power, the Canadian Nuclear Association and others, said it was a simple oversight. When we considered the bill in 1997 nobody caught that. In committee the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Association reiterated that it was just an oversight that needed to be corrected and we could get on with it.
The director general and the legal counsel for the department were at committee deliberations. It was disturbing that the director general was less than forthcoming with his explanation of why the phrase “or any other person with a right or interest in” was in the bill. The director general did not express the same opinion that I heard before that it was simply there because it was an oversight and was missed.
When the legal counsel was asked the lady said the department was very much aware of the meaning of the phrase and its consequences. She was the legal counsel but was not prepared to offer an opinion. If it was aware of it, why was it in the bill? Why was it not removed when we debated and passed the bill back in 1997? That concerns me. The government could have helped the bill through the process by being a bit more forthcoming on that issue, but it was not.
The NDP and the Bloc brought in all kinds of other issues that muddied the water in a major way. It was educational in a sense because I learned a lot about the genuine issues concerning nuclear power. The House needs to take the time to study the whole issue of nuclear power and how it fits into the mix of energy in this country and how we can best protect Canadians from the dangers of nuclear power.
All that was very interesting but it was terribly irrelevant to the whole thing. We spent a half a day in committee listening to a filibuster about the financial situation of British Power. The weak financial position and the danger of bankruptcy in British Power was enough reason for us to deny this seven word amendment in the bill. Surely, if we were to pass the bill and remove that extraordinary liability from the lending institution, that lending institution would have enough brains to look at Bruce Power, and how its financial situation related to British Power. The bank could then decide whether the liability on its money was too great to lend it. We do not need to do that as parliamentarians. It is a bit outrageous for us to go down that road and have that debate.
Another interesting issue that came forward endlessly was the issue of the Nuclear Liability Act. Issues were raised that I was not familiar with and that we need to deal with. The Nuclear Liability Act limits the level of liability in a nuclear accident to $75 million.That may not have been a big issue when the only people in the entire country who owned and operated nuclear plants were governments. Ultimately no matter what the cap was, when that cap was bypassed, the government of the day would end up being responsible. When the government was responsible from the very beginning, it was not as big an issue.
Now with the introduction of this bill and the opening up of the industry to private sector financing, the question is how liable should a private sector operator be in the case of a nuclear spill? This is a much bigger issue than just the contamination of the reactor site. This is about liabilities for off-site contamination, the health of Canadians, et cetera.
It is a really important issue. Clearly $75 million is nowhere near a high enough cap on the liability. We need to go back at some point to the Nuclear Liability Act, study it and set an appropriate cap either in the act as this is or a cap that is part of the licensing approval process by the Nuclear Safety Commission in the application for the licence to operate a plant. There needs to be a bond or something in place to ensure that the money is there, if there is contamination or an accident, to will protect Canadians, particularly those Canadians living in the vicinity of the nuclear facility.
Those are valid arguments. We need to at some point in this Parliament or in committee or somewhere go back and look at these things. They were not relevant to Bill C-4 and I was very disappointed at that. I can only imagine the frustration experienced by Bruce Power, while it waits for the bill to go through the House, having watched the filibuster which has gone on for weeks on this. It knows that until the amendment is passed, the entire project of refurbishing the reactors at Bruce Power is in jeopardy. Therefore, electrical energy in Ontario and the supply and price of that energy to the province is affected by that.
We hear talk about how we do not need nuclear power and that we should get rid of it. That is another debate for another day. However at some point Ontario Hydro made the decision to go nuclear. Arguments were made about the wisdom of that decision given the death of Ontario Hydro and other issues surrounding it, but they did it anyway.
Now nuclear power in Ontario is an integral part of the baseload power. If anyone doubts that, I would urge the nuclear operators in Ontario to simply shut down all nuclear power at six o'clock in the evening and see how much the wind power operators and the solar power operators can pick up for Ontario residents so they can cook their evening meals. I suggest it would be very dark and very cold.
To advocate those things is irresponsible. We have to do everything we can. We have a responsibility as a government and through government to the bureaucracy and the Nuclear Safety Commission to protect the interests of Canadians in terms of safe operation of the facilities. However we also have heard references to nuclear waste and what we do with that. We have a huge responsibility to look after that waste responsibly and in a safe manner. I think we can do that.
Nuclear power will continue to be part of the energy mix of the country. Undoubtedly, if the government goes ahead with the Kyoto protocol, the contribution of nuclear power will increase, particularly if AECL can come up with a new generation of a Candu reactor which is smaller, more efficient, cheaper and the lead time to construct it is cut way down. If all those things are achieved, nuclear power undoubtedly will become a more important part.
The contribution that fossil fuel energy has made to the country has been tremendous. Probably the key reason why North America has moved so far ahead of much of the rest of world in prosperity is the availability of cheap fossil fuel energy and our ability to use it and export it.
However given the environment we are in today and where Canadians are at, I do not think anybody in the fossil fuel industry would argue that it is time for us to look at cleaner energy sources that provide a baseload, which wind power, solar power and geothermal power can never do. They certainly can increase their share and their contribution, but we still need that baseload power, the one we can depend upon when everybody's lights and stoves are on in the evening.
It is time to look at where that might shift to, simply because fossil fuel energy is a finite resource which will run out one day and which gets more and more expensive. It is pure common sense that we look for alternatives. To think that tomorrow we can erect wind farms and solar panels so we can shut down either the fossil fuel industry or the nuclear industry but still keep the lights on and keep our homes warm is irresponsible and ludicrous.
I would urge all members in the House, in the interests of fairness and reasonableness, to get on with the issue of passing the bill and sending it off to the other place so that Bruce Power can get on with the job of refurbishing the its facility and get it back on line. This would allow Ontario hydro to shut down more of the extremely polluting coal fired plants, which are importing some of the dirtiest coal in the world from the U.S. This would then allow us to have clean non-polluting power, which the Bruce Power facility is capable of providing to us.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
December 4th, 2002 / 4:20 p.m.
Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC
Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the House that the bill before us, which I began speaking about briefly yesterday, is the former Bill C-57. After prorogation of the House, it became Bill C-4. This is essentially the same bill granting businesses wanting to invest in nuclear energy a privilege that we consider excessive and that exempts them from any responsibility.
From the outset, we completely disagree with this bill for one simple reason. I strongly believe that the current government should have invested more in clean energy such as wind energy, instead of once again giving nuclear energy another chance. I am convinced that the community and most citizens —and my hon. colleague from Sherbrooke mentioned public consultation on this issue yesterday— would like to get rid of this energy and see it eliminated from the Canadian and Quebec landscape.
The second reason, which I alluded to earlier, is that the Bloc Quebecois believes that, if backers find this investment too risky, there is no reason why it should be any different for society.
I am having trouble figuring out where the government is going with this bill. It absolves investors of any obligation by saying “What we want as a government is to ensure that people can invest in nuclear energy without having to get involved if there is a problem”. If there were a disaster and the site needed to be decontaminated, it would again be up to the people, in other words the government, to clean up the mess. I am convinced that, because of the high costs of site remediation, the companies responsible would probably go bankrupt and disappear into thin air. Again, the government would have to deal with the problem. The State and its citizens would have to pay to have the site decontaminated. This bill leaves the door wide open to this kind of abuse.
The third reason is that, despite everything being said, we believe that there are significant risks associated with nuclear energy. The main risk of course has to do with waste disposal. We could remind the House of the Chernobyl disaster. Some will say “Yes, but our nuclear power plants are different. They do not use the same technology. Candu reactors are used at our plants”.
We have exported our Candu technology throughout the world. In fact, we have even gone as far as selling it to dictatorships when Eastern Europe was still under Soviet rule.
In spite of all that, I believe that nuclear energy is dangerous. We saw that a few years ago, two or three years ago, when we toured Canada's nuclear generating stations, whether in Ontario or in New Brunswick, where the Pointe-Lepreau nuclear generating station is located. We realized that nuclear generating stations, particularly in Ontario, were not well maintained and could pose significant risks for society as a whole and for those living near these stations. Of course, because of the size of our continent and because of the dominant winds, if ever there were a nuclear accident in one of these stations—and I could also talk about nuclear generating stations located in the state of New York—we would be affected in Quebec. And the same goes for all of central Canada and even for the east coast.
These are the three reasons why we will oppose this bill. However, I would like to go back to the treatment of nuclear waste. Investing $6 billion in Atomic Energy of Canada without knowing how nuclear waste will be disposed of is a typical example of a society's failure to think.
As a society, it is irresponsible to produce this type of energy without knowing what we will do when the time comes to treat nuclear waste, to dispose of it in an appropriate manner and to decontaminate the sites where these generating stations are located.
I would like to quote from the press release that was put out by the former Minister of Natural Resources when he introduced the bill. It accurately reflects the spirit of the bill as well as our fears:
These companies must have access to commercial credit to finance their needs, like any other enterprise, said Minister Dhaliwal. This amendment will allow the nuclear industry to attract market capital and equity. At the same time, we can continue to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
The Act's current wording has been interpreted to extend site remediation liabilities beyond the owners and managers to also include lenders—
I would stress, these are the minister's own words.
creating for them unknown financial obligations that may exceed by far their commercial interest. The consequence has been to discourage private sector interest in lending to the nuclear industry.
Here we have the minister introducing a bill and making such an incredible statement. He is telling us “Yes, but the private sector does not want to invest in nuclear energy, because the risk is too great and is an unknown”.
So, we are just going to absolve them of responsibility. Is the risk not also a major one for society as a whole? Is what is now being done not just bringing the risk here, before this House, so that the entire community will have to assume that risk, rather than lenders?
We cannot in any way support such a bill. In my opinion, this is a mistake that must be corrected. I am convinced anyway that, if we were to require businesses, lenders, to be liable for an accident, none of them would invest in nuclear energy.
What point is there in this, if the private sector refuses to invest in nuclear energy, in this type of energy?
In recent days there has been much talk of the Kyoto protocol. The government wants to see it passed, but we could also talk about this government's past record as far as clear energy is concerned. If we no longer invest in nuclear energy, a replacement must be found. In my opinion, it will need to be replaced by new energies, and there must be heavy investment in these energies.
I would describe the federal government's track record, as far as investment in new energy is concerned, as shabby and irresponsible.
Simply consider the proposed investments in wind power. I was telling you earlier that more than $6 billion was invested in the Atomic Energy of Canada program. What is the federal government doing to help develop wind power, particularly in our regions? We know that regions like the Gaspé are great places to develop this kind of energy.
The existing federal government program gives us access to $17 million per year over 15 years to develop wind power. This is simply ridiculous, if you compare it to the $6 billion invested in atomic energy.
We could also look at other sectors when fossil fuels are concerned. The Hibernia project in Newfoundland alone received $3.8 billion in assistance. Currently, we are discussing the Kyoto protocol. We are being told that it is essential to ratify Kyoto and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The government invested $3.8 billion in the Hibernia project for oil and gasoline, which is a highly polluting fossil fuel energy and a big producer of greenhouse gas.
Direct subsidies of $1.22 billion, $1.66 billion in loan guarantees and a $300 million interest assistance loan were granted to the Hibernia project in Newfoundland. Ottawa also financed 65% of the total project cost, and now look at how much currently goes toward developing wind power.
Did the federal government do the same with hydroelectricity? It did not invest one penny in this sector. Fossil energies were developed, when we had the capacity to develop clean energies such as hydrolectricity. This government never invested one penny in hydroelectricity in Quebec, when it was pouring huge amounts of money into the other provinces.
I could also have talked about what happened regarding the Athabasca tar sands. Since 1970, the federal government has invested $66 billion in fossil energies such as oil and gas. Let us try to imagine what would have happened if, in addition to the $6 billion invested in atomic energy, that money had been invested in clean energies. If we had had $72 billion to develop clean and alternative energies, today the Kyoto protocol would be a mere formality. We would probably be ahead of the other countries of the world. We would produce a lot less greenhouse gases.
I want to go back to wind energy. We talk about it a lot right now because of the Kyoto protocol, but we could also do it because of what the government is proposing. Over the past six years, wind energy has experienced an annual growth of 30% worldwide.
Germany is the number one user of this form of energy. It has 40 times more installed power than Canada. Europe alone has almost 75% of the world's wind generators. Yet, we all know that, at one time, Europe was a major developer of atomic energy. Today, it is doing everything it can to get rid that form of energy, because it is not, in its opinion, a truly cost-effective form of energy, considering the costs involved and its end result, namely the waste that it produces. Moreover, current technology does not allow us to get rid of the waste produced by atomic energy.
Consequently, the European Union wants 22% of its electricity generation to come from renewable sources, wind energy in particular. A large part would come from this type of energy, as I mentioned. Denmark is currently meeting 13% of its energy needs through wind energy. Even the United States has significant incentives, including a 2.7 cent per kilowatt-hour subsidy, to meet an objective of over 500,000 watts.
Let us look at what the current government is offering in the area of wind energy. This $17 million per year comes from a program that spans several years and sets out a 1.2¢ per kilowatt-hour contribution for projects set up in 2002, a 1.1¢ per kilowatt-hour contribution for those started in 2003, and so on, all the way to a 0.8¢ per kilowatt-hour contribution in 2007. This is being called an incentive, this $17 million a year to develop clean energy here. Personally, I do not think that this amounts to much. I think the government has the responsibility to invest more in wind energy.
The Bloc Quebecois proposed a $700 million federal wind energy investment program. That may seem like a lot of money, but I remind those listening that if we look at the amounts that were given to the oil and nuclear industries in recent years, it adds up to more than $72 billion. We are talking about $700 million compared to $72 billion. I do not think that it is too much to ask for a real program to promote wind energy. It would be fully in line with ratification of the Kyoto protocol.
We know very well that wind energy is a clean source of energy. It produces no greenhouse gases. Therefore, it does not constitute a danger for our society, nor for the society we will leave for our children.
We, in the Bloc Quebecois, are proposing a $700 million program over five years. I might add that this is a minimum. If we decided tomorrow morning to develop wind energy just in eastern Quebec and particularly in the Gaspé Peninsula, we could create 15,000 jobs in short order, including on the North Shore and along the Lower North Shore. Nuclear energy could never do that. It could never do that for our regions.
Fifteen thousand jobs could be created in Quebec if $700 million was invested in the development of wind energy. This would involve developing a made-in-Canada technology rather than an imported one. It would be all ours, adapted to our climate, adapted to our environment. We would be creating a high tech industry, with worthwhile jobs, and could later export the technology. We have a particular climate and therefore need to develop technology that is tailored to that climate.
As I said, this is what the Bloc Quebecois is proposing. When we first proposed this, the objective was to create a minimum wind power capacity of 1,000 megawatts in Quebec alone, mainly the Gaspé region. That is why the program we are proposing would target component manufacturing plants. As I said, it is not just a matter of setting up wind generators, or of just purchasing the technology and sticking up some poles with blades on them on some mountain. That is not what will create jobs. That is not what will help us make technological advances over other countries. That is not what will allow us to develop, particularly in a region like the Gaspé.
I should perhaps point out at this time, given the local socioeconomic situation, and the possibility of a cod moratorium, that we stand to lose another thousand jobs in the Gaspé. In Newfoundland alone, there will be 11,000 jobs lost. If a substantial investment were made in wind power, the economies of these regions could be given a real boost.These regions could develop by turning to high tech, instead of being totally dependent on natural resources.
It is important for this government to realize that this would be a major input for developing our economy. In recent days, moreover, what has been called for unanimously, in Quebec, in the Gaspé, on the North Shore, in Newfoundland and the maritime provinces as well, is a true program to jump start the economies affected, particularly those that will be hit by the potential cod moratorium. Some economies were virtually totally destroyed by the 1992 moratorium. By adopting measures in favour of developing clean energies, energies to replace fossil fuels or nuclear energy, we have an opportunity—