Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act

An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Gary Lunn  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of June 15, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment establishes a liability regime applicable in the event of a nuclear incident that makes operators of nuclear installations absolutely and exclusively liable for damages up to a maximum of $650 million. Operators are required to hold financial security in respect of their liability. This amount will be reviewed regularly and may be increased by regulation. The enactment also provides for the establishment, in certain circumstances, of an administrative tribunal to hear and decide claims. Finally, this enactment repeals the Nuclear Liability Act and makes consequential amendments.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

May 28th, 2013 / 12:20 a.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, if there is one thing upon which my colleague and I can agree, it is that the development of our natural resources in this country does play a significant role in our economy. It creates jobs and economic growth. That said, it does have an impact on our landscape; it does have an impact on Canadians. One principle I certainly share with him quite strongly is that these resources need to be developed in an environmentally sustainable way. It is something Canadians demand and something in which the international community seeks us to be leaders.

Overall, Canada has a very good track record in this regard. We have, both federally and within provincial jurisdiction, very robust environmental assessment regimes, so on the front end of a project we are looking at what the costs are to the community in which it is being developed, be they actual or defined in other ways, and whether things are being done in an environmentally responsible way, all the way through build out, through safeguarding, through the operation and through the abandonment of projects.

This particular principle, in which our government believes, is reflected in the responsible resource development package that we tabled last year, wherein we did things like increase safety inspections for pipelines and increase the strength of the tanker safety regime. This is a principle that certainly I bear very near and dear to my heart, and I know the government does as well.

The concept of polluter pay is one that is very important and it is one about which I know the Prime Minister has spoken in the House, where he says our government recognizes the importance because it ties into the overall concept of the environmental safeguarding of our country while we balance the need to develop our natural resource sector. Again, it is important to the economy.

My colleague opposite brought up the report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, which we talked about at length in the House of Commons during various question periods. We also had the environment commissioner at the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. We asked him some questions around this report, and I will note a couple of things he talked about with regard to the specific report my colleague referenced. He said, “I don't have the slightest doubt that this government is absolutely focused on closing the gaps we've identified”. Therefore, where we need to ensure we have increased policy and tighter rules, we will be sure to follow through with that.

However, it is important to note that we as a government have also, in other areas regarding liability, put forward legislation that has been overturned time and again by the House of Commons. I am speaking specifically to nuclear liability. I believe it was Bill C-63 in a previous Parliament, and Bill C-5. Time and again, this was actually a concept that was voted down by the New Democrats.

This is a concept with which our government has been seized. I certainly hope that, if we have bills put forward in the House of Commons again, my colleague would work with me to see them pass, and perhaps convince our colleagues who are in apt numbers in the House of Commons right now to support it. However, certainly this is something our government respects and on which it is working very hard.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2009 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, ballet slippers for little feet, cardboard pictures of Lenin and dolls in various states of dress and dismemberment provide a glimpse into kindergarten life before it came to a standstill in April 1986, when Chernobyl's reactor 4 exploded.

The fire burned for 10 days, contaminating tens of thousands of square miles, and the fallout was 400 times greater than that of Hiroshima. Thirty people died in the blast, four thousand died of cancer, a third of a million people were driven from their homes and six hundred thousand registered as cleanup workers or liquidators. Of these, 240,000 received the highest radiation doses.

Over the years, the compensation costs, economic losses, health and cleanup expenditures and lost productivity mounted into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Today Chernobyl remains the world's worst nuclear disaster.

Growing up, our high school teachers and our professors taught us to be concerned about nuclear accidents, nuclear waste, nuclear weapons proliferation and pollution from uranium mining. Unfortunately these problems have not gone away. For example, we continue to bury waste, a policy of “out of sight, out of mind”, despite not knowing the full environmental and health consequences.

Bill C-20 is however a positive step to managing and minimizing the risks involved in the use of nuclear material, namely through preparation, response and reparation. Specifically, Bill C-20 establishes the civil liability regime and compensation to address damages resulting from radiation in the event of a radioactive release from a Canadian nuclear installation, or from nuclear materials being transported to or from the installation. Compensable damage includes bodily injury, damage to property, economic and property losses and psychological trauma resulting from such injury or damage.

It is important that the bill address psychological trauma. The Chernobyl accident impacted economic prosperity, personal health and social well-being. Victims reported high levels of anxiety, stress, medically unexplained physical symptoms and reckless behaviour, including alcohol and tobacco abuse and consumption of game from areas heavily contaminated with high levels of radioactive cesium.

Bill C-20 increases operator liability from $75 million to $650 million and would put Canada on par with liability limits in many other countries, as well as responding to the recommendations of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. The latter is important, as private insurers have consistently and systematically refused to provide coverage for damage resulting from nuclear incidents.

When discussing nuclear accidents, bodily injury may range from radiation sickness through to leukemia and other cancers. Radiation sickness is a serious illness that occurs when the entire body receives a high dose of radiation, usually over a short period of time. Many survivors of Chernobyl, Hiroshima and Nagasaki became ill with radiation sickness, which often began with nausea, diarrhea, skin damage and vomiting and progress to seizures and coma.

Most people who did not recover from radiation illness died within several months of exposure, usually from the destruction of bone marrow, which led to infections and internal bleeding. Unborn babies can also be exposed to radiation and they are especially vulnerable between two and fifteen weeks of pregnancy. The health consequences can be severe, including abnormal brain function, cancer, deformities and stunted growth.

Ionizing radiation can also cause certain types of leukemia. An elevated risk of blood cancer was first found among the survivors of the atomic bombings in Japan two to five years after exposure. Recent investigations suggest a doubling of the incidence of leukemia among the most highly exposed Chernobyl liquidators.

Unfortunately, time does not permit me to describe all potential health impacts such as cardiovascular problems, cataract and thyroid cancer.

Neither Bill C-20 nor its predecessors Bill C-63 and Bill C-5 have been the subject of lengthy public debate outside Parliament or have they attracted much media attention.

Members of the Canadian Nuclear Association have commented that the bill responds to society's needs and represents a balanced approach. The association further reports that the bill provides protection of the public under a coherent, explicit and stable framework.

Before putting forth questions that might be asked at committee, it is important to remind the House that while the government puts forth the bill, it is also responding to the leak at the Chalk River nuclear reactor, which provides a third of the world's medical isotopes.

The general manager of the Association of Imaging Producers and Equipment Suppliers points out that there have been at least five crises of medical isotope production in the last eighteen months. What makes the present crisis so challenging, however, is that three out of the four other reactors in the world that supply medical isotopes, in Belgium, France and South Africa, are also shut down.

While I support the bill in principle, it requires study at committee and careful questioning. For example, what are the projected economic, environmental and health costs of a nuclear release in Canada and possible impacts farther afield? Does the proposed compensation address those impacts?

We must remember that the Chernobyl fallout had far-reaching effects, spreading radionuclides as far away as Lapland in northern Scandinavia. The Arctic's Sami people are reindeer herders and face significant problems from the accident because of the high transfer rate of radioactive material from contaminated lichen to the reindeer. Many herds had to be slaughtered to avoid consumption of the meat. Scientists estimate that it will take another 20 years for radioactive levels in reindeer to fall to pre-Chernobyl levels.

The executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada reported:

A nuclear accident on the scale of the Chernobyl disaster would cost hundreds of billions of dollars in cleanup costs—conceivably 100 times more than the maximum liability industry would face under Bill C-63.

Belarus and the Ukraine are paying approximately $460 billion over 30 years to clean up Chernobyl. Twenty years after the accident, these countries still pay 5% to 7% of their budgets toward the cost of the catastrophe.

The bill is only a small part of a web of protection needed to make Canada more nuclear safe as well as providing life-saving medications to those in need.

We have had multiple wake-up calls. In August 1945, an American war plane dropped a nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. An estimated 80,000 people were incinerated and in the months that followed, another 60,000 died from the effects of radiation.

A few days later was Nagasaki. About 30% of the city, including almost all of the industrial district, was destroyed by the bomb and nearly 74,000 were killed and a similar number injured.

In 1979 radioactive steam leaked into the atmosphere in Pennsylvania when a water pump broke down at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant. There were fears that some of the plant's 500 workers had been contaminated.

Complacency cannot be an option when it comes to nuclear safety. Today we know the tremendous costs and we must take action.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2009 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Madam Speaker, as I was saying, the United States has a compensation limit of $10 billion. If we look at other countries that have had quite a few nuclear accidents, whether it be Germany or Japan, we will notice that they do not have an upper limit at all, that if there is an accident, the company must pay all the costs of cleaning it up.

This bill used to be called Bill C-63, then it was called Bill C-5 in the last Parliament, and now it is Bill C-20 and the number remains the same. New Democrats said back then that we do not support $650 million as the existing compensation limit because it is way too low. We said it then. We say it now. Why are we seeing this number again?

I believe one of the reasons we are seeing this bill reintroduced today is because American nuclear companies are really interested in purchasing significant sections of Canada's nuclear industry.

Under the current legislation, they would subjected to the American rules as Canadian law does not meet the international baseline. We know the international minimum, according to the two international agreements, the Paris and Vienna conventions, requires a bare minimum of $600 million. Because of that, under American law, the parent company of a subsidiary can be sued for compensation due to the actions of, say, a Canadian subsidiary of an American company if the law governing that subsidiary is below the international standards, as it is now. If this bill were passed, then the American corporations could pick up any number of nuclear companies.

What concerns me most is what is happening at Chalk River. We have a reactor shutdown. We have at least 30,000 patients per week who need the precious medical isotopes the reactor produces and we know that these isotopes will run out in a week. We also know that the reactor has had a heavy water spill and we also know that it will be shut down at least until mid-June, and maybe even longer.

Now, people who have cancer or who need heart scans cannot get the scans done. People who have thyroid cancer, as I have had, after the thyroid has been removed, need to ingest a medical iodine isotope, pill I-131, which I remember taking. It would then destroy the cancer cells in the thyroid area as the thyroid attracts these nuclear iodines made by the isotopes. If people do not get it treated, if they do not take that iodine pill, which is called a seed, then the thyroid cancer cells could spread.

I am glad that when I was diagnosed with that cancer, I was able to have it removed and then, at that time, able to have access to this iodine I-131 pill. I cannot imagine what will happen to these thyroid cancer patients who need this treatment, and then to have them hear that we are going to be running out of these isotopes in a week. What is going to happen to them?

Instead of focusing on a plan B, instead of looking at whether to build a new reactor that is supposed to be on line, we are discussing this bill that certainly does not really make sense because the liability of $10 billion is 1,540% higher than the limit proposed by this bill.

Is it because our reactor is that much safer than what the Americans have? Is it because Canadian taxpayers have far more money, that if there were a big accident, certainly the Canadian government could do the cleanup? I just heard that we have at least a $50 billion deficit. Where are we going to find the money to do the cleanup if the company is not liable?

Is the imminent sale of AECL to an American company that has the government so eager to make the Canadian nuclear legislation more American-friendly? That perhaps is one of the reasons. We are quite concerned because right now in tough economic times, the value is the lowest, which means that AECL can easily be picked up if there are interested buyers once this bill has passed.

We believe that this is bad legislation. We do not think that it can be amended, especially the dollar amount of $650 million, through the committee. I have already heard that such an amendment would be ruled out of order when it is referred to committee, which means that we are stuck with this dollar amount of $650 million. In the speeches I have heard today, whether from the Liberals or the Bloc, there is concern that $650 million is too low. This bill cannot be passed at second reading because it is just not good enough.

If we think of forecasting costs of possible accidents, a major accident at the Ontario Darlington nuclear plant, God forbid, east of Toronto, which is not far from where I am, could cause damages estimated in the range of $1 trillion, not $1 billion but $1 trillion. No wonder the Japanese and the Germans do not have an upper limit.

There are statistics of the costs of past accidents. On October 5, 1966, the Enrico Power Plant, Unit 1, outside Detroit, Michigan, not far from our border, suffered a minor issue in its reactor. The public and the environment did not experience any tragedy. The minor repairs of the entire accident, which were not entirely fixed until 1970, were $132 million in 1970 dollars. This amount would be covered, but that was a 1970s figure and it was for minor damage.

If we look at Three Mile Island, which I think everyone is familiar with, in 1979 in Harrisburg, again there was a minor nuclear incident. It caused one to two cases of cancer per year and the cleanup and investigation of the incident cost an estimated $975 million U.S. That is over the Canadian limit already and again we are talking about seventies and eighties dollars.

It is troubling that we have such a low limit of $650 million. We know that nuclear energy is extremely unsafe if it is exposed. I remember when I had to take a radioactive iodine pill, I was in a secure room. No one could come anywhere near me for at least three days. The food was put in through a secure passageway. It was extremely radioactive. No one would want to sit beside me when I was taking that pill.

If we look at the world's foremost expert on nuclear liability, Norbert Pelzer, he is saying that the upper limit should be unlimited and that even the $10 billion in the United States is insufficient to cover a huge nuclear incident. Our amount is not even enough for a minor issue, never mind a major problem.

The other part of the bill that is problematic is the compensation process is cumbersome. It should be like an insurance claim. Instead, right now victims of nuclear accidents have to go through court. Going through the legal system is extremely costly and not everyone has access to it.

The other problem is the bill does not cover any accidents outside the plant setting. For example, if oil and mining companies use radioactive materials and a mistake is made, such as a spill or something takes place, this insurance would not cover that at all and the victims would be left high and dry.

When we calculate the cost of cleaning up Three Mile Island, if that dollar amount did not come from the nuclear industry itself but directly from taxpayers, we could have built 1.15 million hundred watt solar panels. We should think of the possibility of the green jobs we would be missing if the taxpayers have to pick up the tab if there are any accidents. We certainly need to have more green jobs.

Canada ranked 11th in last year's poll, measuring wind power and in the last budget, the government cut off the grants for wind energy, which will make it even worse. The bill is really not helpful.

I want to point out various accidents. For example, East Germany had an accident in 1975. On May 4, 1986, again in Germany, there was fuel damage. What happened was attempts by an operator to dislodge a fuel pebble damaged its cladding, releasing radiation, detectable up to two kilometres from the reactor.

In June 1999 Japan had a control rod malfunction. The operators, attempting to insert one control rod during an inspection, neglected the procedure and instead withdrew three, causing a 15 minute uncontrolled sustained reaction at the number one reactor of the Shika Nuclear Power Plant. The electric company that owned the reactor did not report this incident and falsified records, covering it up until March, 2007.

Also in September 1999, a few months later in Japan, workers did something wrong, which exceeded the critical mass, and, as a result, three workers were exposed to radiation doses in excess of allowable limits. Two of these workers died and 116 other workers received lesser doses, but still have a great many problems. In March 2006 Tennessee had a big problem.

These countries that have had problems have set either no upper limit or a limit in the billions. In Canada setting the limit at $650 million is really not at all useful. That is why the New Democrats will not support the bill.

We would hope the government would take it back, consider the upper limit, either make it similar to the U.S. or, even better, do not set an upper limit. That would be a new nuclear liability and compensation act, which is overdue, and it would certainly get the support of New Democrats.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

May 15th, 2009 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the member understands the process we went through. This bill is actually in its third reincarnation. It came in as Bill C-63. It was Bill C-5 in the last Parliament, and now it is Bill C-20.

He was not at committee last time, but we did have extensive consultations. We had open committee meetings. We had the communities come in. We had the interested parties come to speak to us. Obviously, we have talked to the industry as well. There have been broad consultations at least twice on this bill. We bring it forward with the support of the communities, the support of the industry, and we believe with the support of Canadians as well. The NDP members were the only ones who were opposing this bill last time, and we understand they will likely do that again.

However, the reality is that this bill has been put together. It has been crafted with input from a lot of different Canadians and with the industry as well. We certainly look forward to support from the other parties in this House, because this bill is long overdue. We need to raise the liability limits. It is something that everyone acknowledges. Certainly we hope the NDP members will not stand in the way of protecting Canadians, as they did last time.

December 4th, 2007 / 9:40 a.m.
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Acting Director, Uranium and Radioactive Waste Division, Department of Natural Resources

Dave McCauley

I believe it was last summer. It was first introduced as Bill C-63, I believe, in June, and it has been reintroduced as Bill C-5.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActRoutine Proceedings

June 15th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-63, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)