Madam Speaker, Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, was introduced at first reading on Friday of last week. Today is Tuesday; this is only two working days. This is not much.
We have not been informed of all the government's intentions, but the bill might seem fairly straightforward, given its brevity.
It seems fairly straightforward but, on reflection, more information is needed to be able to consider it further. Fortunately, the Internet is available 24 hours a day so I did some research into nuclear issues yesterday evening and part of the night. I do not have a written text but I will take one step at a time.
The bill is only one page long and it consists of one short paragraph. Paragraph 46(3) of the previous legislation reads as follows:
Where, after conducting a hearing, the Commission is satisfied that there is contamination referred to in subsection (1), the Commission may, in addition to filing a notice under subsection (2), order that the owner or occupant of, or any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
“With a right to or interest in” has become “who has the management and control of”. This limits the responsibility of financiers a good deal in this connection.
There is already a bill and normally it would be a straightforward matter. This puts me in mind of Cyrano de Bergerac whose reactions would run something like this:
“Oh no, young man, that is a bit brief. One could convey much to the gods just by varying one's tone of voice.
There is curious: But what does this apparently inoffensive simplicity conceal?
Timorous: There are therefore risks if financiers do not wish to commit themselves.
Cavalier: Ah, that is a private matter. We should not concern ourselves with it.
Interrogative: Can we do without nuclear energy?
Affirmative: Nuclear energy is not a greenhouse gas solution.
Provident and considerate: Invest in renewable energy; it will be to your advantage”.
In fact, the arguments of the minister and the backer are fairly simple as well, relying solely on the financial aspects. As an accountant I have often had to assess financial risk. Often such risk was limited to the money invested in or loaned to a company.
The nuclear issue goes beyond nuclear plants, and private sector ownership and investment in nuclear plants. But it seems this is the first time we are debating this provision. I am told they have been working on this for two years. That is rather long for a single section of an act, but when the initial bill was first introduced in its entirety, what was the point of clause 46(3)?
The question begs to be asked. I am told nobody made any comments on this clause, but it is being suggested that the intent was not to move toward the privatization of the nuclear industry. This is the most relevant question that should be asked.
The main user and owner of nuclear plants in Canada is the province of Ontario, with 20 plants. Ontario Power Generation, formerly Hydro Ontario, was the owner of the plants and its was experiencing significant losses. It had to invest enormous amounts just to keep the system working. There had been many disruptions and serious problems were looming. The situation remains unchanged, nuclear energy being nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is said to be the solution to the greenhouse gas emissions problem but I do not share that view.
It is clear that the minister would like the private sector to invest more in the nuclear industry. Here is a quote from his backgrounder:
With governments encouraging more private sector participation in the ownership and management of facilities in all energy sectors--
Presumably he also favoured the nuclear industry as far as the private sector goes. Obviously this is a matter for the natural resources minister. He has answered many of our questions so that we might readily accept his conclusions.
However, there are also the backers. The backers are the ones making the request and pushing for this because funds were not made available by the lending institutions. The aspects of government policy that backers take into consideration are the following. They say that the current provisions of section 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act prevent nuclear power plant owners and operators from having access to financial markets and from obtaining financing. The big Canadian banks have refused to finance power plants and have officially told the Minister of Natural Resources that section 46(3) was the reason behind the refusal.
Once again, for those interested, the current legislation is said to have a negative impact on the ability of private enterprises to invest in nuclear power plants, to the detriment of the development of Canada's nuclear industry.
This is an important element. We are being told that it is to the detriment of the future development of Canada's nuclear industry. What of this? Do we really want to push the development of Canada's nuclear industry even more?
It is worth asking whether or not this is the best way to proceed. We know quite well that this is not the best way to proceed when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Obviously, I could come back to this later.
We have also been told that this is unusual, that there are no other similar provisions in other federal or provincial environmental legislation. In other statutes on the environment, the responsibility for compensating for damages caused to the environment is up to the owners, occupants or those who manage or supervise the contaminated site. Lenders and title holders are not exposed to environmental responsibility, unless they have not exercised their rights on the title and are not ensuring that the asset is being managed or monitored.
If at some time possession of the site occurs due to a loan, obviously, then there is responsibility involved. When it comes to this responsibility, the dangers involved in the nuclear industry are far greater than with other energy sources, as far as I am concerned. We know that in oil and gas, contaminants are shamelessly released into the atmosphere. We are told that nuclear energy is clean. However, we know that there is a great deal of waste and risk involved in operating and managing these facilities, and automatically, a great deal of risk in terms of contamination. We also know that when it comes to the management of waste, we recently had the nuclear waste disposal act.
As members know, we were still not in agreement with how this was done. Now, we figure there never was any debate on the advisability of continuing to develop the nuclear industry in Canada and in Quebec. In Quebec, it is not a real issue, because we have hydroelectricity and it is likely that, in the relatively close future, we will not even rely on nuclear energy anymore.
It is also said that the proposed legislative amendments will not reduce the power of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to require owners and operators of nuclear plants to post an adequate guarantee to protect the environment, since the commission will continue to deliver licences to nuclear plants.
Of course, this is not quite the same thing. Amounts of money or guarantees can be provided. However, we can see that, increasingly, the government wants to promote nuclear development through the private sector.
The government's main argument is that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will still be omnipresent and have control over everything. If a place is contaminated, the commission will force its owners or operators to fix the problem.
We all remember that the former Atomic Energy Control Board was created in 1946, shortly after the Hiroshima tragedy. Back then, there were already some serious concerns which triggered a will to promote effective monitoring of atomic energy and, of course, nuclear plants.
The commission's role is to regulate nuclear industry in Canada, so that the development and use of nuclear energy do not pose an unacceptable risk to health, safety and the environment. The commission must also control imports and exports of regulated nuclear substances, equipment and technologies, and help Canada fulfill its domestic and international obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
In this regard, we are told that the plutonium used to make atomic weapons comes primarily from nuclear plants operated by the private sector.
We know that, for a significant number of Canadians, the Candu reactors operated by electric utilities are the most obvious example of nuclear plants. So, when we talk about funding of nuclear facilities by financial institutions, we are not just talking about reactors, as we know, but the public believes that this is what we are primarily talking about.
For sure there are many fields of research. They are varied. There is uranium processing, naturally; there are also research reactors; nuclear research and test establishments; big irradiators; and, at the end of the spectrum, nuclear weapons of course. Everybody knows we have to strive for nuclear non-proliferation. However, fear may always remain in people's minds regarding all this.
We learned from a former head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that it was not up to the commission to make decisions on whether to use nuclear power in Canada. She added “However, once such a decision has been made, our role begins—and it does not end until the facility has been successfully decommissioned according the regulatory requirements”.
We know the government wants to proceed swiftly, as witnessed by the fact that first reading took place on Friday, second reading today, and that the bill will probably go through committee very quickly and third reading stage before the end of the session.
There has been no update on whether or not to go forward with nuclear energy, which would be very worthwhile, I believe. We are not just trying to prolong proceedings or interfere with financial interests. What is in place today will probably have to stay in place for a while yet. The laws of finance require that equipment be amortized, but we know that if we do amortize our equipment, we produce dangerous nuclear waste in increasingly large quantities. The government is ignoring this fact, it is not paying attention to it, but it is the Damocles sword that hangs over every one of us.
While doing my research, I looked into why private companies are and will be getting increasingly more involved in the nuclear sector. It is the result of deregulating the electricity sector. A case in point is Ontario Hydro and the decision by the provincial government to deregulate the electricity market. It has been very much in the news lately, and Ontario is not the only place where this is happening.
Deregulation of electricity markets is occurring all over the western world. However, Ontario was the first province in Canada to legislate in this area when it passed the Energy Competition Act in 1998. The purpose of this act is to restructure the electricity market and electric power utility. Ontario owns 20 nuclear power stations and is beginning to dispose of them. I think that four of them have gone to Bruce Power.
I also read the Ontario Power Generation reports. There were significant losses. For the first quarter of 2002, losses totalled $217 million. It is significant.
One has to wonder why an organization that is experiencing losses would want to dispose of some of its assets—it is a form of lease, of course—or to transfer the management or control of these assets to the private sector. First of all, there are substantial sums of money involved, as one can see in the financial statements. Ontario Power Generation is receiving substantial payments.
However, one can question the viability of the private company that will run this nuclear power station. We know all about the maintenance and management of such stations, emergency procedures and control. If there is any decontamination involved, it is even worse. In situations where businesses are struggling, how will they make a profit? For a business that is not making a profit, the risks can be huge.
I will spare you another report that I have read. It is clear that promoters are very good with the rhetoric. They were promoting Ontario Power Generation for the transfer of various facilities so they could manage these facilities themselves. In fact, I think that one or two stations are not operating right now because they do not comply with the commission's regulations.
Earlier, I asked this question: can we do without nuclear energy? This is the fundamental question we should be asking. By amending this section, we are, in effect, handing over to the private increased management of nuclear plants. Therefore, in contributing to the development of nuclear plants and getting the private sector to invest more and more, will we, at some point in time, be building nuclear plants to produce electricity to be sold tor the United States, which is increasingly starved for energy? If nuclear plants owned by the private sector in Canada are allowed to proliferate, of more and more nuclear waste will also be produced.
I asked if we could do without nuclear energy. I believe that we can. It all boils down to how we look at the issue. The only question that must be asked is this: is nuclear energy acceptable or not? If it is, then I would be in favour of it. However, like all the people who have seriously examined the issue, I believe that nuclear energy is unacceptable, principally because of the risk of major accidents.
Of course, in our modern societies, we must accept a certain degree of risk. We will not stop travelling by plane because a plane crashed. People do take risks. However, in this case, the banks are not willing to take risks. One must conclude, therefore, that there enormous risks associated with nuclear plants.
The nuclear risk is without parallel. It is completely out of proportion. After a nuclear accident, a whole area would have to be evacuated for centuries, and, for generations, children would be born with all kinds of deformities.
I spoke earlier about the other problem with the burial of radioactive waste. If it is really that safe, why bother to bury it in practically unpopulated areas? Why not closer to big cities? We would like Canadians to know enough about that to wonder about this. Is nuclear energy acceptable or not? As far as I am concerned, it is not. For the population, I think the answer would also be no.
I was also asking a little earlier if nuclear power could be a solution to greenhouse gas emissions. We often hear that nuclear energy is one of the best solutions, if not the only reliable solution to greenhouse gas emissions. The nuclear industry is working very hard to be included in the post-Kyoto negotiations. Nuclear reactors are presented as an alternative that should be taken into consideration in the development of flexibility arrangements, as for emission permit trading or the joint implementation of clean development mechanisms such as wind energy, solar energy and hydroelectricity.
This attempt is seen by these backers as a last chance to revitalize the nuclear industry, which has never reached the level of expansion announced by the pioneers and has even started to show the first signs of decline.
In 1974, the International Atomic Energy Agency was forecasting a worldwide nuclear capacity of 4,450 one thousand megawatt reactors by the end of the century. At the end of 1999, the same agency had only 433 nuclear reactors listed around the world, or only 8% of what had been forecasted.
Nuclear energy is being used in 32 only countries around the world. In 1999, it provided only 7.5% of the commercial primary energy in the world, way behind the fossil fuels, like oil, gas or natural gas, which produced 40%, 25% and 25% respectively. It represents 17% of commercially rpoduced electricity, but only 2.5% of final energy demand.
In 2000, no reactor was under construction, on order or even in the planning stages in North America or in western Europe. The last order that was not cancelled later on was made in 1973, in the United States, and in 1980, in Europe, except in France, where construction of the last plant began in 1993.
The decline is starting to be seen worldwide. The nuclear park has lost seven units, from its all time record of 440 operating reactors in 1997. And the chances of recovery are slim. Most of the 38 reactors listed by the IAEA as being under construction at the end of 1999 are located in eastern Europe, in the former U.S.S.R.
This record has not prevented nuclear proponents from developing very optimistic scenarios for the recovery of the nuclear industry, and climate change is being given a crucial role in influencing decision makers.
Thus, in early 1999, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency developed three scenarios for the period extending from 2000 to 2050. While the first one would be the demise of nuclear energy in 2045, both of the others forecast either continued development or a decline, followed by a recovery, which would lead to the same worldwide installed capacity of 1,120 megawatts in 2050. In contradiction with short term outlook, these scenarios would imply an unprecedented building campaign.
The argument generally used by the nuclear lobby is the direct comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from a reactor with those from a coal fired power plant. The very favourable figures that are misleading. In particular, the comparison must cover all the alternatives: gas, which now represents most of the new capacity installed in Europe and which produces 1.5 to 2 times less greenhouse gas emissions than coal, but also alternative energy sources and energy efficiency.
Nuclear plants and nuclear energy are in a decline. This is obvious. Now, there are things that we, in the Bloc Quebecois, would still like to point out. Since there has to be a debate on the appropriateness of Canada's continuing to invest and to work at producing energy from nuclear sources, we say that there are major alternatives.
Looking at investments made in the past by the Canadian government in other sources of energy, we realize that direct grants from the federal government into the oil industry since 1970 amount to $66 billion, compared to $6 billion in nuclear energy and only $329 million in renewable energy.
Just imagine what $66 billion would have done for wind power and solar energy. Most likely this would not even be an issue today. We know that, together, nuclear plants in Canada generate between 16,000 and 17,000 megawatts of energy. However, wind power is also creating a great many jobs. I could get back on this later.
The wind power industry is expanding around the world. Over the last six years the average annual growth of this industry was 30%. With 40 times the installed power capacity of Canada, Germany is the biggest user of this form of energy. Europe alone owns close to 75% of all wind generators in the world.
At the present time the total wind power generated in the countries using this kind of energy is 24,471 megawatts. Canada's contribution is currently 207 megawatts.
I revert to the job creation aspect. According to the U.S. department of energy, wind power creates more jobs by invested dollar than any other technology. It creates over five times more than thermal power produced from coal and nuclear energy.
Let us take a look at the number of jobs created by the wind power industry in Europe: in 1996, for the production of 3,500 megawatts, 72,000 person years of employment were created. Could the same kind of investment in nuclear power have the same impact? I doubt it very much.
In the year 2000, for an installed production capacity of 8,000 megawatts, 512,000 person years of employment were created. According to forecasts for 2020, with 100,000 megawatts installed, 2.4 million jobs directly related to wind power would be created.
As members know, the federal program is very skimpy. The December 2001 federal budget introduced a production incentive for electricity generated from wind energy projects: 1.2 ¢ per kilowatt hour of production from projects commissioned as early as 2002; 1.1 ¢ per kilowatt hour in 2003, and so on, down to 0.8 ¢ per kilowatt hour in 2007. The federal government is far from the 2.7 cents per kilowatt-hour assistance provided in the U.S. Moreover, this program only has an overall budget of $260 million, spread over 15 years. That is $17 million a year. That is not even enough to build 15 wind turbines a year.
Instead of asking ourselves questions, trying to encourage the private sector to invest in nuclear energy, when the government has invested close to $66 billion in the oil industry and a minimum of $6 billion in nuclear energy since 1970, in other words in the past 30 or so years, imagine what could be done, especially with a large budgetary surplus. Taking Quebec as an example, the Gaspé would be one appropriate place for the development of wind energy. If Quebec were not hampered by the fiscal imbalance, it too might be able to invest in these energy sources, given the federal government's lukewarm interest in investing in wind energy.
Quebec is proposing the creation of a federal program to invest $700 million in the wind industry over five years. This is the equivalent, on a per capita basis, of federal assistance to Newfoundland for the Hibernia project. The federal government has the means, as witness its $9.8 billion surplus for the 2001-02 budgetary year.
The goal is to create wind capacity of at least 1,000 megawatts in Quebec, primarily in the Gaspé region. To accomplish this, a strong wind industry must be developed. Such a capacity would have the potential to create 15,000 jobs at the very least. That is why the program will be used to set up plants to manufacture wind turbine components.
We can certainly see the potential for private investment in the nuclear industry. Let us also put some money into renewable energies so that in the future we rely less and less on nuclear energy, and future generations never have to deal with disasters that could strike at any time.
I will repeat, and with no one in particular in mind, what I said at the beginning of my speech. Plutonium used to make atomic bombs mainly originates with civilian nuclear plants that have financial backers. This is strictly a cautionary remark. Let us try to imagine what will happen if the program is continued.
This is why it should focus on the manufacture of wind generators. The project should absolutely include local content and an aspect to encourage the development of regional industry. The region has definitely been affected from the economic point of view. In terms of energy and job creation, there are huge possibilities.
Returning now to my first and most basic ideas, I believe that if financial backers find this too risky an investment, there is no reason for society to react differently.
We believe that the hazards relating to nuclear energy require tighter regulations than for any other type of energy. We also believe that the government should focus its efforts on developing clean energy such as wind power. Where energy is concerned, the Bloc Quebecois also demands, first and foremost, ratification of Kyoto.
Why change a section that in my estimation was mainly aimed at blocking private investment in the nuclear energy field? With regard to nuclear energy, we know that the risk increases as use increases. If the government wants to enlist private enterprise in order to increase the production of nuclear energy, I do not see this as the ideal solution as far as the greenhouse effect is concerned. It is erroneous to think that the nuclear approach is the only one with positive effects on greenhouse gases. Wind energy might very well takes its place and would have far more significant economic impact than investments in nuclear energy where the risks are too great to warrant any such considerable investment.