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.