House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, many countries in the world that are great users of nuclear energy are questioning this type of energy. Canada is the only country that has introduced legislation to regulate the nuclear industry.

My colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie is an expert on environmental issues. Can he explain to us what new technologies Canada could use instead of introducing a bill entitled an act respecting the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste? It means that we are not about to eliminate this type of waste.

I would like my colleague, who is an expert on the environment, to tell us how a government like the Canadian government could look at new energy alternatives for Quebec and Canada.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, indeed, with regard to the Bonn agreement and the Marrakesh agreement, it is worth noting that Quebec probably was the province that was most in favour of excluding the use of nuclear energy under the Kyoto agreement and the Bonn agreement.

We know full well—and we must be aware of the situation—that 90% of Canada's nuclear waste comes from Ontario. It is clear that nuclear plants are used to a much greater extent in Ontario than in Quebec. We also know that Alberta and western Canada make greater use of oil and tar sands. We know as well that nuclear power is more prevalent in Ontario, whereas hydro power is more prevalent in Quebec since it is the main lever, a major economic lever.

But Quebec made important economic and environmental choices in the 1960s that should be followed. In this regard, I think that the energy choices made by Quebec must be geared toward exporting our technological know-how in this area. We must set an example.

To answer my colleague I would say that there are three methods that could be used. They will have to be considered by the waste management organization. Of course, there is burial in the Canadian Shield, and as my colleague from Sherbrooke said earlier, we must be watchf ul to ensure that Quebec does not become a dump for Ontario's waste.

Since Quebec produces only 3% of Canadian nuclear waste and Ontario 90%, a long term solution could be, for example, to bury this waste in the deep geological formation of the Canadian Shield. This could result in Quebec becoming a nuclear waste dump. Everything is possible. History tells us that when it comes to waste, Quebec is often the victim.

Currently, section 187 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act could allow U.S. waste to cross the border and be buried in the Eastern Townships. Why? Because we are next to a state that produces waste and cannot find a permanent solution. Quebec must not become a dump.

I believe waste management must be fair for the provinces and those that generate the waste. I said that this bill might facilitate the importation of nuclear waste from Russia to Canada, for example, but the biggest danger is that Canada will get into the nuclear waste business. This is dangerous. Why? Because some communities could be affected by it.

We need a solution that deals with two aspects, two basic parameters: technical solutions—as the Seaborn commission did of course and as the government could consider with this bill—but also solutions aimed at protecting public safety by taking public consultation into account.

In this respect, regardless of the bill, I believe that any possible solution must be along both those lines.

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4:10 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

I too would like explanations from my colleague.

In listening to the members for Sherbrooke and Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, it appears to me that the area we are in is not child's play. We are talking about nuclear energy and nuclear waste, which remains radioactive for I do not how many hundreds of years. We are talking about consultations in which we were told that maximum safety required an independent organization to manage products.

As my colleague from Sherbrooke said, it is not the fox you ask to run the henhouse. This is a very serious matter.

I would like my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, who has more experience in the House than I, to explain how the government can get around a recommendation that is certainly not political? The recommendation was not made to please the Bloc. How can the government, which claims to be responsible, reject such a recommendation when we are trying to find a long term solution?

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague's statement that the Bloc Quebecois made proposals and amendments is absolutely true.

As I said earlier, the management organizations and particularly the energy corporations cannot form the boards of management organizations, because they then would become judge and jury. This is why transparency must be the aim.

Let us recall the conclusions of the Seaborn panel, which led the Bloc to propose amendments with respect to subclause 6(3), to the effect that we wanted the concept of management to be overseen by regulatory bodies that had our confidence. We think the public has to have confidence in these management organizations. This is what we would like.

Another element of the Seaborn panel's recommendations concerned transparency. The panel felt that transparency in the process of selecting a style of management was a condition essential to its acceptability. It provided that and I quote “To be considered acceptable, a concept for managing nuclear waste must have been developed within a sound ethical and social assessment framework”.

Energy corporations cannot therefore be judge and jury. There must be greater transparency on the boards.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand on debate today. I give credit to the member for South Shore who has represented us in committee on this. This is part of his critic's portfolio. He has been very helpful in preparing some of the points that I will be making on behalf of my party today.

The nuclear fuel waste act would allow industry and government to deal with the long term management of nuclear fuel waste. On that basis, the timing of this legislation is long overdue. The nuclear industry in Canada is 50 years old and nuclear waste disposal and management have been studied for the last 25 to 30 years.

As many of the witnesses stated at committee, regardless of our support or disapproval of nuclear energy, we cannot deny the need to manage the waste responsibility effectively.

What is disappointing about the legislation is the lack of public involvement so reminiscent of other pieces of legislation which have come before the House, particularly when the Seaborn panel, which studied this issue for a decade, clearly stated in its recommendations that public distrust was one of the challenges facing the nuclear sector as it dealt with this issue. Many of the presenters before committee questioned the lack of public involvement in the process.

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come stated that our aboriginal elders should have had a role to play. Senator Lois Wilson, a member of the Seaborn panel, noted the lack of input from a social sciences viewpoint. Mayors from the municipalities in Ontario where nuclear power stations are located denounced the lack of municipal involvement.

Not only is the general public excluded from the process, even the advisory council, which the legislation creates to allow for broader viewpoints and inputs, will have a role to play only when a decision is made regarding disposal methods and will not operate independently of the waste management organization, otherwise known as WMO. Furthermore, WMO only has to make reasonable efforts to ensure a wide representation on the council.

These are areas where the PC/DR coalition tried to fix failings in the legislation by proposing amendments at committee. At committee, the PC/DR coalition introduced 19 amendments. All but one of them were unsuccessful.

I met with representatives of N.B. Power in Saint John, New Brunswick earlier this year to discuss concerns regarding the bill. We brought those amendments forward to the House through the member for South Shore. He presented those amendments in committee. I believe, and I may stand to be corrected, that every one of the amendments that we were supporting on behalf of N.B. Power was shot down in committee by the government. We did our best to get them through but the majority members on the government side shot down those amendments.

The amendments, however, addressed serious omissions in the legislation. One of these oversights concerned the exclusion of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., otherwise known as AECL, as a full member of the waste management organization. As a producer of nuclear fuel waste, but not from commercial sources for energy production, the AECL avoids contributing as a full member to the WMO. This ignores the role that AECL should and could play in the process and ignores the knowledge and experience that AECL could bring to the process. The nuclear power generators were critical of AECL's small role envisioned by the legislation.

I agree that AECL should have been made a full member of the WMO. This again was something the PC/DR coalition tried to put through at the amendment process. Once again, that was shot down by the government.

The legislation does not entail a role for parliament in issues that affect the long term health and safety of our environment, business sector and public domain. Rather, reports will be presented to the minister. This excludes parliament. It is a theme on which I have been speaking on a regular basis in this place, but basically parliament, by executive decree in the legislation, does not deviate from the practice of the government.

I applaud the member for Sherbrooke who at committee proposed an amendment that would have involved parliament in the process. Hats off to that member. As well, the member for South Shore proposed amendments that would have made the process more open.

I want to point out that there is a nuclear power generating station in Point Lepreau in the constituency of New Brunswick Southwest, which I represent. It is one of those situations where it is in a constituency which is very close to the city of Saint John and which is represented by the former mayor of Saint John in the House of Commons.

I mentioned that we were in meetings in Saint John regarding Point Lepreau and its future, how this legislation would fit in and some of the points they were attempting to get in the legislation. The member for Saint John was with me in that meeting as well as the member for Fundy--Royal.

Even though the committee heard repeatedly from witnesses that transparency and accountability were paramount when dealing with nuclear fuel waste, the Liberal members continued to show their disregard for the democratic process by refusing to recognize a role for parliament in the bill. In fact it was shown at committee that the documents presented to the minister and made public would not include the study that recommended the disposal method.

The parliamentary secretary admitted that this was an oversight by the government and brought in an amendment to ensure that the study would be included in those documents that would be made public. This is an example of the sloppiness of the legislation and the omissions to which I referred earlier.

Another problem with the legislation is that the waste management organization will not operate at arm's length. It will consist solely of industry representatives. This means that the nuclear players will not only produce energy from nuclear sources but will also be in the position of managing the long term disposal of waste generated from this process. It is a conflict of interest, as was pointed out by representatives of the Sierra Club and the North-South Institute.

Something has just been brought to my attention. We are debating what I consider to be a pretty important piece of legislation and I think every member of the House would agree. However we have two government members in the House. I bring to your attention, Madam Speaker, the fact that we do not have quorum.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The member is perfectly right. Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

We have quorum.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, I always feel a little better when I have an audience in the Chamber.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Although the hon. member can ask for quorum, he cannot refer to the absence or presence of any members. Please continue.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, you are absolutely correct. I would not want to embarrass any member of the House. I am always amazed at the power an individual can have in this place when he or she calls for quorum.

Continuing on Bill C-27, because industry was putting in large amounts of money representatives from Ontario Power Generation and N.B. Power contended that the responsibility should rest with them. I would agree that industry has authority at the WMO because of its financial obligations, but the WMO could have represented a broader range of viewpoints.

The advisory council could have helped to address some of these shortcomings but the way it would be established precludes this from happening. Not only does the advisory council only come into effect once an option for disposal has been chosen, but members are appointed without the requirement that they are broadly representative of the sector significantly affected by nuclear fuel waste.

The possibility that foreign waste will be imported into Canada once we have a waste disposal method in place is another shortcoming or omission in the legislation. Thinking of foreign waste, the PC/DR coalition introduced two amendments at committee which tried to ensure that the import of foreign waste would not be contemplated by the bill.

It is also interesting to note that the legal counsel at committee made the following remarks respecting the bill in relation to foreign waste. I refer to comments made by Carmel Létourneau, the senior policy adviser, legal services, of the National Research Council. She said that the intent of the bill did not cover the question of import of nuclear fuel waste.

Joanne Kellerman, legal counsel to the National Research Council said that the scope of the bill did not touch on importation of nuclear fuel waste from outside the boundaries of Canada. She said that it did not speak to that point.

Both of them went on to say that other acts would deal with the import of nuclear fuel waste if it were to be contemplated at some time in the future.

However, the legislation should clearly state that Canada is not prepared to accept another country's nuclear fuel waste for disposal. The question is this. Why would Canada agree to accept foreign nuclear fuel waste when another country has reaped the financial rewards from this substance? It does not make sense.

These amendments were defeated by those members on the other side of the House, often referred to as government members. That is being generous in my description.

The three mayors of municipalities in Ontario in which nuclear power stations are currently in operation appeared before the committee to outline the impact that nuclear power generation has had on their municipalities. They provided clear reasons why their municipalities should be consulted on nuclear fuel waste management, given that 90% of the waste is currently stored in temporary, above ground containers at the nuclear power plants.

There is no question that this gives all of us some concern. The legislation currently states that local and regional governments, and the big word is may, may be involved at the advisory council level, but in no place does it make consultation mandatory or provide financial compensation for these municipalities.

The PC/DR coalition brought forward amendments in committee to address these points. The member for South Shore was the very person who brought those amendments in, only to have them shot down by government members. It does not make a bit of sense, but again it is government by executive decree. If the Prime Minister or a minister wants something, it happens and the nodding ducks on the other side stand up and follow their orders.

Another proposed amendment would have seen the Minister of the Environment rather than the Minister of Natural Resources oversee the bill and make decisions concerning the disposal method to be used for nuclear fuel waste.

While at first the proposal may appear to remove the responsibility from the minister because of the energy component of radioactive material, we are really dealing with the issue of storage and disposal. It is clearly an environmental issue. The material may be irradiated fuel and have future energy potential, but with current technology and at this stage of development, the focus of the bill is how best to dispose of the material and protect the public from radioactive substances; hence, the need for the Minister of the Environment to be the lead on this file.

Our party agrees that the Minister of the Environment would be the more appropriate person to oversee the management process and, as Sierra Club noted, remove a potential conflict of interest that would affect the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister would not only be in the position of overseeing Canada's nuclear fuel reactors and the commercial aspects involving Candu reactors, but would also be charged with determining how best to manage the long term waste associated with the commercial use of nuclear fuel.

I have outlined my party's concerns with the legislation, which were detailed in committee and echoed in many pieces of correspondence that our party, and particularly the member for South Shore, received on the bill. For these reasons the PC/DR coalition, while recognizing the need to seriously and immediately address the issue of long term management of nuclear fuel waste, will not be supporting the legislation as it currently reads.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, it is fitting that today of all days we are talking about Bill C-27. The legislation calls for the nuclear utilities to form a waste management organization that would manage and co-ordinate a full range of activities relating to the long term management and disposal of nuclear waste fuel. Discussions are still in progress with the key parties.

Today is also the last sitting day for the premier of Ontario, and we wish him well. He guided the legislation. He brought Ontario back from the precipice of financial ruin to become one of Canada's economic provincial engines. It was due in part to the extra revenues generated that we were able to continue to discuss power and energy generation in Canada.

The use of Candu technology to date has avoided the emissions of more than 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, 11 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 2.5 million tonnes of nitrogen oxide. In addition, no particulates were released and that decreased the amount of smog production.

Candu reactors have proven to be a key part of the clean air solution. Canada's greenhouse gas reduction targets and the public demands for clean air would be impossible to achieve without them. For example, the air quality in the southern regions of Ontario would suffer the greenhouse gas and acid rain emissions without Candu reactors. Emissions would increase by 15% to 20% without the use of nuclear reactors.

Bill C-27 talks about nuclear waste. I will begin by sharing with members how I was introduced to nuclear waste in high school. Our grade 11 teacher brought in a black and white film entitled War Games . This film was our first introduction to nuclear energy. It began with a mushroom cloud and thousands of people suffering from a nuclear blast. Then came the aftermath, the fallout and the radiation. It depicted bodies lining the sidewalks with their necks hanging over the curb. The film was produced in Great Britain and was a re-enactment of a nuclear blast that was used for training purposes during the world wars.

The film showed people suffering from burns and radiation sickness. They were barely alive. A policeman would go from person to person gently lifting them and putting a bullet through their heads. When the film ended the teacher told us how that was caused by waste from nuclear reactors. That was the myth I was introduced to as a high school student.

I want to dispel that myth because it is likely many other people share the same background or vision of what is done with nuclear energy and nuclear waste. After graduating from high school I took chemistry at the University of Western Ontario. One of my former professors, Dr. Puddephatt, was presented with the Governor General's award. Taking chemistry and learning about nuclear technology and nuclear chemistry was informative and eliminated the ignorance around nuclear energy as a whole. I had an advantage that not everybody else had.

Canada has never used nuclear science to create weapons. The spent fuel is disposed of safely in large pools resembling swimming pools. We are currently looking at different technologies to get rid of and to store nuclear waste safely for all time. It has been advantageous to Canadians, since Canada entered the nuclear age.

I would like to clarify the myths and untruths surrounding MOX fuel. MOX is mixed oxide. That is the reason why terrorists would not want to use this form of spent fuel to create a bomb.

It was an honour for Canada to be chosen to do MOX fuel testing. The Chalk River Laboratories in my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke have tested MOX fuel for years. MOX fuel came from Russia to Canada for test purposes to see whether or not the mixed oxide fuel could be used for positive purposes in Candu reactors.

The spent fuel taken from sites in Russia was put in powder form and made into pellets that would not be conducive to building any type of weaponry. It would be far too expensive for a terrorist to go through the process of putting it back into the form a weapons grade material.

Canada was chosen because of its superb background and insight into nuclear fuel and energy, and because it was a peaceful country. Equal parts of MOX fuel came from both Russia and the United States. The idea was that for every gram of MOX fuel from Russia, a gram of fuel would be taken from the United States. We did not hear too much about that. People got all riled up over the idea of weapons material coming to Canada.

The fuel was brought to Canada under armed guard. The pellets were put into protective coverings and cases which in turn were placed into concrete drums and chained to the trucks.

For Canadians to become exposed, a truck would have to be involved in some kind of collision, the barrels would have to come unchained and break open, the concrete cracked and the rods holding the pellets sawed through. Then somehow they would have to be ground to dust. Even then the level of radiation would be innocuous. For people to suffer exposure to MOX fuel, they would have to crawl on their belly and either lick it up or inhale it. The fears were unfounded. It was the special interest groups that tried to prevent the transportation of this fuel.

The fact that Russia and the United States are transforming their weapons grade material to an innocuous form, possibly for positive use in the form of energy, is a success.

It is a victory. It is a sign of victory for the disarmament of the two major nuclear powers.

Another scare myth that the detractors of nuclear energy like to use is the accident that occurred at Three Mile Island. The accident at Three Mile Island was a result of a water pump failure. The people at Three Mile Island used regular water to cool their fuel, unlike our Candu reactors which use deuterium. We have heavy water coolant encased in pressure tubes so there are many more protective coverings.

As for the incident at Three Mile Island nothing in North America had ever quite occurred like that. They were not sure what the outcome or fallout would be. They took every major precaution but it was actually the overreaction to the incident that incited fear in people.

Once again, whenever the word nuclear or atomic is used, people see a mushroom cloud instead of clean, blue skies and clean water, which is really the ultimate result of this clean, efficient use of energy.

Another example the detractors of nuclear energy use is the accident at Chernobyl. Its reactors use carbon as a moderator as opposed to heavy water. Heavy water is just a regular water molecule with an extra neutron.

Scientists at Chernobyl were doing some experiments and were shutting down the safety mechanisms in order to see how far they could go in terms of not having any deleterious effects. If we contrast that to the Candu reactor, when the safety mechanisms are shut off, the entire nuclear reactor shuts down.

First, what happened in Chernobyl was in part a problem with the entire technology behind their reactors, it being carbon as opposed to something as innocuous as water. Second, scientists were experimenting with something they had no business experimenting with.

Nuclear technology is not used just for power generation. It is also used for health reasons, for scientific technology. Neutron scattering reveals the structures of the biological object such as cell membranes. It allows us to look at the cells in our body without changing any part of it, without having to take an x-ray which can damage the cells or without having to form it into a crystalline form. By using that we can examine how viruses work and develop cures and treatments for diseases that inundate society right now.

Part of the price we pay for progress in a society is an increasing variety of the waste generated by numerous industrial activities. Since many of these wastes have the potential of harming us and harming the environment, they must be carefully managed and controlled, which is the reason for Bill C-27.

The nuclear power generation stations produce wastes that are radioactive. Canada's nuclear industry has developed the technologies to safely manage, control and reduce the waste overall.

Two types of radioactive waste materials are produced in the day to day operation of Canada's nuclear reactors. There are the low level radioactive waste materials, such as mops, plastic sheeting and protective clothing which are compacted, stored and monitored in concrete trenches in or above concrete buildings. They only represent a small portion, maybe 1%, of the radioactive waste. The other 99% of the radioactive waste is in the form of the high level waste and it is the spent fuel.

What is radioactive used fuel? During the normal operation of a Canadian nuclear reactor, uranium fuel formed into bundles is used to create the nuclear reaction needed to generate the heat which produces the steam used to turn the turbines that generate electricity. Because the neutrons in the fuel rods travel so fast, we have to use a moderator to slow them down so that we can actually get the fission reaction. To get a fission reaction going is quite a feat of science.

After a period of about a year and a half in the reactor, the fuel bundles must be replaced with new ones containing a fresh supply of uranium. Upon removal from the nuclear reactor, the used fuel bundle is highly radioactive and therefore must be isolated from the environment. The used fuel bundles are removed from the nuclear reactor by special machines and are transferred to storage bays within the nuclear power station. These storage bays look very much like large swimming pools. The water in these pools cools the used fuel bundles and shields people from the radioactivity.

How much fuel is there? Through normal operation, an average 600 megawatt Candu nuclear reactor produces about 20 cubic metres of used fuel bundles per year. The bundles in storage in Canada at the end of 1990 for all nuclear generators for one year in Canada would fill one Olympic size swimming pool. All the used fuel is safely and economically stored on site. The bundles in storage for all time in Canada at the end of 1987 would have filled an ordinary skating rink.

How safe is the storage of used fuel? Radioactive used fuel has been stored in this way for more than 30 years, so it has been tested and can be safely stored this way for a much longer period. Radioactivity in the fuel bundle decreases with time. For example, used fuel is 100 times less radioactive after one year and 1,000 times less radioactive after five years. Most of this radioactivity is completely gone within 500 years.

After the used fuel bundles have been stored in water for five years, they no longer require as much cooling and can be transferred to dry storage. The Canadian designed, thick walled concrete storage canisters have been used in Canada for many years. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, our federal crown corporation, has established an underground research laboratory in the Canadian Shield where it studies and develops the technology required for the safe and permanent disposal of our radioactive waste.

Canada's nuclear industry takes its responsibility for the management of radioactive waste seriously. That is why it is in favour of taking responsibility by being an active participant in a waste management organization.

In addition to the clean use and helping to achieve Kyoto protocol goals, whether or not we sign on as active participants, to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions is still a goal we would attempt to achieve. We have the science involved behind the neutron scattering, a positive side asset to the nuclear power itself.

In addition to examining the cells of our body without interfering with or hurting them in any way, we are able to examine other materials as well. It is through the use of new technology and new science that we will be able to provide the next generation with high tech knowledge and many more jobs to come.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am always surprised to hear members of the House, who were democratically elected by their constituents, promote an economy based on nuclear energy in Canada. It is quite paradoxical.

I will point out some numbers: nuclear material, particularly plutonium, has an average life of 24,000 years. That is a fact. Also, I will remind my hon. colleague that according to scientific evidence plutonium has the most serious and best known carcinogenic effects.

Today this issue cannot be considered strictly from the point of view of the economy and of commercial and economic interests, that is with a view to promoting an economy based on nuclear energy. Safety, public health and environmental considerations must be taken into consideration in every decision made by the government.

On that subject , I would remind members that a spokesperson for a Canadian energy corporation I shall not name clearly stated, speaking of the safety of our nuclear facilities, “I cannot, however, say anything about missile safety”.

Therefore, on one hand it is totally incorrect to say that our storage facilities are safe, because energy companies themselves recognize that there are problems, especially in today's global context. On the other hand, it is pure demagoguery to say that there is no public health risk when plutonium is known as one of the substances with the most serious carcinogenic effects. Let me repeat once more that the average life of plutonium extends far beyond five or ten years. It has an average life of 24,000 years.

I would like the hon. member to tell me how she can say today that this aspect of nuclear waste management must be viewed in a purely economic context without any consideration of safety, health and environmental hazards.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, in my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke we actually have a reactor at the Chalk River nuclear site. The people in my riding have lived with the nuclear industry in their own backyard for over 40 years. Many of the people in my riding have been employed there, as have their fathers and grandfathers. We hope that our children will have employment opportunities as well.

What is really incongruent is that when we are looking at safety and waste, the aspect of nuclear waste always has a greater focus and gets more attention than other forms of waste. The exhaust from automobiles is a form of waste. There is the waste from the coal fired generating stations. One thousand tonnes of coal are used to heat the water, generate the steam and turn the turbines. At the end of that 1,000 tonnes of coal there is one tonne of ashes. The rest of it is in the air. We breathe that air.

One of our number one diseases is lung disease. Lung cancer comes from the different acidities and emissions from the other forms of generated electricity for example.

While there are potential dangers to people's health in the many ways we generate electricity and energy, it is important to keep it in perspective and not just seize into looking at nuclear generated electricity because it serves a special interest group. To use the tragedy of September 11 in fearmongering against the generation of electricity then in turn provides the energy for medical equipment is a real travesty.

The nuclear industry and we as parliamentarians are looking at ways to responsibly dispose of nuclear fuel waste. Other electricity generators should be doing so as well.

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4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, Auditor General's Report.

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4:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I listened to the intervention of the member from the Alliance Party. The topic of debate was whether we should follow through with any further amendments to Bill C-27. Since she did not recommend any amendments to Bill C-27, I am assuming her party has changed its position and is going to support the bill. It was my understanding that the opposition parties were against this legislation because it was so poorly crafted.

If the member did read the specific piece of legislation, how does she think the role of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited works in the legislation vis-à-vis the other three power corporations, Ontario Power Generation Inc., New Brunswick Power Corporation and Hydro-Québec? How does she think that the sum which Atomic Energy of Canada Limited is paying up front compares to the sums for instance that Ontario Power Generation Inc. and Hydro-Québec pay?

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, with regard to whether or not the Canadian Alliance supports Bill C-27, at this point we still do not support it because we believe there should be arm's length oversight. The committees and boards should be answerable to someone at arm's length of parliament. We would still like to see that worked on.

In terms of comparing who pays what, the most important aspect of the storage of nuclear waste is looking at costs up front. We have to know that this issue is going to be taken care of in advance because it is an obstacle to going forward with new generation Candu reactors, as well as the neutron scattering technology which is so important for new innovations and bringing the high tech sector out of a slump.

The science behind computer chips was generated through the work done at Chalk River Laboratories. In tracing diseases we use Candu technology in our Maple reactors to provide over 70% of the world's medical isotopes. In order to continue to use nuclear science we have to address the spent fuel issue. That is the main concern of Canadians when talking about nuclear fuel. Once that is addressed then we can go forward to help Canadians and all the world in medicine. Further technology developed at Chalk River Laboratories is the science behind MRI.

These are a few examples of why the use of nuclear science is so important. However, before we can go further, we have to take care of the waste issue.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with a feeling of frustration but also with enthusiasm that I take part in this third reading debate on Bill C-27, which deals with long term management of nuclear fuel waste.

I have a feeling of frustration because we have to admit that we made choices on energy in the past and we now have to suffer the consequences and manage very dangerous nuclear waste, and also because even if we admit we should bear the consequences of choices made in the past and manage this waste, there are a number of things we think should be done and are not provided for in this bill.

For reasons I mentioned earlier, we supported this bill at second reading. We support the principle underlying the bill, not with a great deal of enthusiasm, but because we are a responsible political party. Again, as a society we made certain choices on energy, and we should now accept the consequences of these choices and make long term decisions to protect the environment and public health.

However, during the review in committee at report stage, we tried to propose some amendments to this bill, which we feel is not only incomplete in many respects but, to put it bluntly, ill conceived.

We worked in all good faith, as we generally do when participating in a debate affecting the public. At second reading stage, we made proposals that were in the interest of the public and devoid of any partisan intention.

Yet, both in committee and at report stage, acting blindly and with partisan arrogance as it has done since 1993, the government rejected almost all of the amendments that came from the opposition side. If it does not come from the government, from the Liberal Party, it is not worth passing. They did not even try to find time to look at these amendments. It was simply not worth the trouble as far as they were concerned.

Such arrogance, such disregard for the opposition parties, which after all were elected by the people and express the concerns of their fellow citizens, is absolutely incredible. It is unbelievable.

This is one reason why, while recognizing that something must be done for the long term management of nuclear fuel waste, we do not feel this bill is the right tool to do the job, because the government refused to approve the necessary changes, amendments and improvements we had proposed.

Furthermore, one of the reasons I will oppose this bill, as the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, is the one I mentioned earlier, namely that I am here to reflect the concerns of fellow citizens. I must strongly condemn the choices that have been made to this day by the government in the energy sector.

It may be that after World War II, there was a degree of enthusiasm, of blind excitement that led western world countries to choose nuclear fission as a source of energy. Up to a point we can excuse the decisions that were made back then, but with experience, with Three Mile Island, with Chernobyl, we have come to see the limits and the dangers of this source of energy.

The government opposite is ignoring the warnings. It is ignoring the fact that all over the world people are beginning to think about new sources of energy. They are beginning to think about doing without nuclear fission, which is dangerous and which pollutes the environment, but this government is bent on selling the Candu technology all over the world.

Allow me to say that I am not the least bit surprised by the positions presented earlier by the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. I am not surprised. What surprises me, however, is to see a parliamentarian who should normally have a modicum of independent thought arrive here and read pamphlets and booklets produced by the Canadian atomic industry.

I am not surprised, because the atomic industry and nuclear fission facilities are primarily concentrated in Ontario and primarily benefit that province. Therefore, we should not be surprised to see a member of parliament from Ontario extol the virtues of nuclear fission. We should not be surprised, but we should be concerned.

In the few minutes I have left I will talk about a political game that has been going on behind the scenes for a number of years. The result of that game is that Canada has made decisions in the energy sector that will impact very negatively on the future of Canadians and Quebecers, particularly the future of our children and grandchildren.

We have deliberately chosen to follow this technological route, pushed no doubt by the Ontario nuclear fission lobby. Riding the wave of what was happening elsewhere around the world, we nonetheless undertook, in the 1970s, a very small research program in nuclear fusion. This program was quite modest in comparison to the nuclear fission program that used the traditional technology of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

As a society, colossal sums of money were invested in the field of nuclear fission in Ontario. We are talking about more than $5 billion invested so far in nuclear facilities by the federal government alone. The federal government has invested approximately $150 million annually in traditional nuclear fission technology.

In addition to this, the government of the day, together with the governments of Ontario and Quebec, had the wisdom, at least, to establish a small experimental nuclear fusion research program. As a result of this very modest research program in nuclear fusion, we managed to build a small nuclear fusion reactor, the Tokamak, in Varennes, in my riding.

Over the years we have not invested $150 million a year, but as a society we have nevertheless invested tens of millions of dollars in this research project, which is the way to the future.

Canada and Quebec had established a partnership—partnerships are rare—but it seems to annoy the federal government. I will come back to and conclude this story in a moment.

Through its nuclear fusion research program, slightly more modest in Ontario, and more significant in Quebec, Canada contributed approximately 1% of the world research in nuclear fusion. However, because it was conducting research in nuclear fusion, it benefited from 100% of the technological benefits of the international research in the field.

Nuclear fusion is a production mode that basically contrary to nuclear fission, which splits atoms, fuses atoms. This fusion, and the resulting heat that is produced, creates energy. The technology is essentially based on the dream of creating solar energy in a bottle.

The energy produced by nuclear fusion is recognized as a relatively economical and safe form of energy that does not harm the environment and produces an infinitesimal quantity of waste, which is no small feat under the circumstances.

As I pointed out, however, we were enjoying 100% of the technological benefits at the time. The federal government invests some $150 million annually in traditional nuclear fission technology, concentrated primarily in Ontario, compared to the $7.2 million it invested annually in nuclear fusion research.

INRS-Urbanisation studies showed that the federal government was probably taking in more in tax revenues than its annual investment of $7.2 million in nuclear fusion.

What happened? Early on in its reign, this government asked Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to cut a number of secondary, superfluous programs, using deficit reduction as an excuse. It was not very difficult for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the bulk of whose operations are in Ontario, to identify a number of projects that were felt to be less important. Tokamak very likely led the list of proposed closures.

So the federal government, in its infinite wisdom, showing an astonishing lack of vision, decided to cut this $7.2 million which was being invested in nuclear fusion research. The result was that the Tokamak project in Varennes, in my riding, had to shut down.

What is absolutely mind-boggling, apart from this government's lack of vision for the future, is that it made its decision without even consulting or warning its partner. Suddenly it announced in a federal budget that federal funding for the Tokamak project in Varennes was going to be dropped, that federal funding for nuclear fusion research was going to be cut, thus flying completely in the face of the general trend internationally.

This is not the first time that the federal government has completely ignored the general trend on this issue and on many others as well.

So the federal government cut off funding. At the time the government of Quebec, which was in an even worse situation financially than the federal government, could not single-handedly come up with the $15 million needed annually by the Tokamak project in Varennes if it was to continue with its research in a satisfactory manner.

Installations worth tens of millions of dollars were abandoned. This is not what I call a responsible management of public funds. A team of some 100 research scientists, high level technicians trained in our universities at taxpayers' expense, had no choice but to take their high level knowledge to foreign countries. This is an excellent example of brain drain. Our nuclear fusion specialists were forced to leave the country and find work in countries where people believe in nuclear fusion.

Furthermore, Canada had developed extraordinary lines of specialization in plasma and microwaves. How will we be able to maintain the level of specialization that we have developed in those areas? It will be very difficult.

This decision was totally unjustified and unjustifiable, all the more so since the federal government has been wallowing in budgetary surpluses ever since. Not only that, but it has the gall to claim, year after year, that it is promoting innovation, research, science and technology in its budgets.

After killing the most important research and development project in the energy sector in Quebec, this government has the gall to say that it considers technology, research, science and development priorities. It is a true scandal to hear the government say such things.

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5:15 p.m.

An hon. member

That is shameful.

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5:15 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

I would even say very shameful, and unacceptable. Faced with such poor judgment, lack of vision, and bad management of public funds on the part of this government, how could we decide to approve energetic choices which clearly promote nuclear fission?

I can hear members across the way saying “There he goes again with the theory of the plot and victimization of Quebec”.

I would like to be able to say that Quebec is well served in the Canadian federation. I wish every day I could say that. However, I am a sovereignist because the facts have unfortunately brought me to the opposite conclusion. In a situation like this one, had Quebec had all the financial resources of a sovereign state, one can easily imagine that it would not have abandoned an infrastructure as fundamental as the Tokamak of Varennes, because it would have been alone to make decisions affecting its future.

Half of the decisions regarding its future would not have been in the hands of another party that has little or no concern for its development. We can see that energy choices made by the government run totally counter to the Kyoto commitments, which it claims it wants to honour.

On the one hand, the government boasts about signing the Kyoto agreement and wanting to reduce greenhouse gases emissions in Canada and, on the other hand, it decides to cut off funding for a project which was costing it hardly anything. In fact, as I said earlier, it probably did not cost the government a cent. It even benefited the government in the end in terms of economic and technological spinoffs for Canada.

So the government says that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but at the same time it cuts off funding for a research project which was costing hardly anything while providing great benefits, and could have led to the bulk production of clean and safe energy. It did that to favour the nuclear fission industry in Ontario at the expense of an emerging industry in Quebec, namely the nuclear fusion industry.

That is the other reason why, as the member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes, I simply cannot support the bill before us today.

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5:20 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

I would like to start by congratulating my colleague from Verchères—Les-Patriotes for his speech. I believe his presentation was rather eloquent because since the beginning of our review of Bill C-27 we have been given many examples, but very few made it as clear how huge the impact of this bill is on us.

I remember visiting in 1997 or 1998, at Tokamak and in the area, people who tried to show us the benefits of the nuclear fusion industry.

I stress this fact because I would like the hon. member to explain how nuclear fusion is different from nuclear fission—there is a world of difference between the two—to really scrutinize the topic and popularize it. That is my first question.

Second, I would like the member to talk about an election promise. With regard to nuclear energy and fission, the Bloc Quebecois did not wait for Bill C-27 to make proposals. This is a reflection that came about as the result of ongoing work within our party. Our colleague was one of those who took part in the reflection that led to the election promise made by the Bloc Quebecois. It is important to look back at the commitments we have made as a political party, something the government opposite should do more often by the way.

I will remind the House that during the last election campaign the Bloc Quebecois promised to push for the federal government to stop funding the nuclear fission industry altogether, and for the $150 million put toward that industry every year to be redirected to research and development on green energy.

To sum up, I would like the member first to explain the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion and, second, to tell us about the solemn promise made by the Bloc Quebecois during the last election campaign, namely to take the $150 million that goes to the nuclear fission industry every year and reinvest in research and development on green energy.

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5:25 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie for his question.

I think he has pointed out, and rightly, that the Bloc Quebecois had studied in considerable depth the entire issue of renewable energy and the technologies surrounding traditional nuclear fission.

In this connection, I must express my admiration for the work done so far by the various Bloc Quebecois environment critics. I am thinking first and foremost of my colleague from Laurentides, our first critic; my colleague from Jonquière, who also served in that position for some time; and my colleague from Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, who held the position during a certain interim period and is now our environmental critic once again.

In the same vein, I must thank and congratulate for their contributions the hon. members for Jonquière and for Sherbrooke, the latter our natural resources critic, for looking after the specific issue of Bill C-27.

This bill is the continuation of a process that began some 20 years ago and the outcome of a study that took some ten years, the study by the Seaborn panel. A lot of work went into this, and the Bloc Quebecois has carefully monitored the progress of the panel's work with the help of our various critics.

I must congratulate them on their excellent work, which ended up as one component of the Bloc campaign platform. So now we are able to keep abreast of current trends internationally and no longer invest in this costly and dangerous technology, which shows such contempt for the environment, nuclear fission. As a result, the funds currently invested in this annually will be redirected to the so-called green energies, as they should be, in keeping with the Kyoto accord, of which Canada is a signatory.

Canada must be rational in its decisions. Canada cannot expect, as is the case in the bill, to make all the decisions and have others do the work for us, be it the provinces, industry, consumers, or citizens, pawning off all of the work onto others instead of doing it ourselves. The government wants to make the decisions and offload the work onto others. But that is not what it should be doing.

I believe that this is one of the fundamental weaknesses with the current federal system. I will not delve into it in detail. I could repeat the little speech I gave to one of my colleagues yesterday on the nature of the federal system compared to the one that exists in Germany, where currently there is no way to regulate or control the federal government if it oversteps its powers, responsibilities or jurisdiction.

I will come back to the question raised by my colleague, the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, as to the difference between traditional nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, which is the way of the future and which is considered to be among those technologies that are considered green technologies.

Of course, when nuclear fusion is mentioned, often the public hears the word nuclear. They say “No, no, no more nuclear power. First, it is expensive. It is very dangerous. We do not know what to do with the waste and it is not environmentally friendly”.

It is important to make some distinctions. As I said in my speech, nuclear fission splits atoms whereas nuclear fusion fuses atoms. The heat created by this fusion creates energy, which can then be used.

As I mentioned in my speech, it is essentially the dream of creating solar energy in a bottle, in miniature. It produces a large amount of energy with very few negative side effects, very little waste; waste is virtually non-existent. This solves one of the major problems inherent in today's nuclear fission technology.

It is therefore an industry which is safer, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly. According to scientists, a phenomenal quantity of energy can be produced by means of nuclear fusion.

Right now, an international consortium, of which Canada is no longer a member, is working on nuclear fusion, but what makes the situation I described earlier even more insidious is that the federal government first cut funding for the Tokamak project in Varennes. As a result, that project ultimately folded up. The Tokamak project in Varennes was closed. There are no longer any nuclear fusion reactors in Canada. Canada is no longer a member of the international nuclear fusion research consortium.

Then all of a sudden Canada is interested in being the site of the ITER project. What is the ITER project? It is a project, led by this international consortium, which includes Japan and the European Union countries, whose goal it is to build the biggest nuclear fusion reactor in the world. It is a project on the order of $12 billion. And where do the federal government and the Canadian consortium looking after the ITER project want to put the ITER reactor? In Ontario.

The federal government waited for Quebec's reactor and all the expertise developed in Quebec to fade away, and then gave its tacit and financial support for the possible establishment of the ITER project in Ontario.

Once again, the members opposite will say this is a conspiracy theory, but to a certain degree, the facts speak for themselves.

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5:30 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to join in the debate on Bill C-27, an act respecting the long term management of nuclear fuel waste. I will begin by recognizing the substantial amount of work done by our critic in this area, the member for Windsor--St. Clair. It has been his recommendation to our caucus that we oppose Bill C-27.

The hon. member cites a number of compelling reasons why the NDP caucus will not be voting in favour of Bill C-27. In trying to render a complicated bill down to a brief summary he points out in as lean language as possible that the aim was to require owners of nuclear waste to assume full financial responsibility and implement a comprehensive, integrated and economically sound approach for management of the waste.

Bill C-27 is the government's response to the 1998 recommendations of the Seaborn panel. The bill has three main elements as the hon. member sees it. First, the main owners of nuclear fuel waste would be required to establish a separate legal entity, a management organization that would be responsible for financial and operational activities related to the long term management approach chosen by Canada.

Second, the same owners would need to establish a trust fund to finance waste management costs.

Third, the governor in council would be required to make a decision on the long term management approach to nuclear fuel waste which the management organization would be required to propose and then implement.

According to the Department of Natural Resources the bill reflects consultations undertaken by the federal government with the public, provinces, nuclear fuel waste owners and other stakeholders. This is the party line put forward by the federal government.

The NDP's concerns with Bill C-27 are lengthy and quite thorough. I again recognize the exhausting amount of work our member for Windsor--St. Clair did in researching the bill and citing its many fundamental flaws.

The hon. member pointed out the main objections of the NDP caucus to Bill C-27. First, it would make the power utilities and AECL, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the centrepiece of the management agency. This runs counter to the Seaborn report which recommended, after extensive public consultation and expert advice, that such an agency be at arm's length and independent from utilities, other vested interests and government. The reservation is that if power utilities are really part of the management agency it is a bit like the fox watching the henhouse.

Second, there is a risk that a lot of our publicly owned power utilities are under constant pressure or threat of being sold to the private sector. I believe firmly that had the Filmon government in Manitoba stayed in power one more year Manitoba Hydro would have been sold to the highest bidder, just like the Tories sold off our telephone system and wanted to privatize everything.

Objective oversight for the long ranging enterprise of managing nuclear fuel waste would be at risk if power utilities had too much say in the management agency. That is our first reservation. Bill C-27 calls for the board of directors of the agency to be made up of stakeholders, not independent people from the broader community as recommended by the Seaborn report.

Again, the board of directors of the management agency would be made up of stakeholders and practitioners rather than members of the community at large, citizen groups, environmental activists or experts in civil society who may have serious reservations about how nuclear fuel waste is treated.

The bill lacks the necessary checks and balances and provisions for regular parliamentary review. Instead it calls only for ministerial review. We are not comfortable with that. The trend toward ministerial rather than parliamentary review is something we have seen developing in a number of recent pieces of legislation put forward by the Liberal government.

An issue so important and critical to our health and well-being as the storage of nuclear fuel waste is surely a subject the House of Commons should be dealing with as a whole rather than there being a simple review by the minister in charge, in this case the Minister of Natural Resources.

We believe the fact that the agency would be made up of people with vested interests in the nuclear industry and not include the broader public and other interests would seriously undermine the legitimacy of the agency. It would jeopardize the public confidence in it which is absolutely critical.

There are few more thorny or frightening issues for the general public than dealing with nuclear waste. Some of this is perhaps because we do not trust that the science has matured and evolved to a point where we can have full confidence in its safety. There is a great deal of apprehension. We believe that public confidence in the management agency is critical. We owe it to the public to allow it to feel safe. It should feel the issue is being managed properly. If people with vested interests in the nuclear industry dominate the management agency and oversight committee that looks at the storage of nuclear fuel waste, where is the public confidence? Again it is the fox watching the henhouse.

The current vested interests have made it clear that their preference is for underground storage in the Canadian Shield, the massive rock outcroppings in northern Ontario and eastern Manitoba. The Seaborn panel reviewed the option of storing nuclear waste pellets in concrete deep in the Canadian Shield, in abandoned mines in some cases. It found the option unacceptable. It found it to be both unsatisfactory for the public and unsafe from a long term social perspective.

I took the trouble to tour AECL Pinawa where this method of storing nuclear fuel waste was being contemplated. As members may know, the tiny pellets are no bigger than the butt of a cigarette and they come stored in rods. The rods would be placed deep in the Canadian Shield which is the oldest rock outcropping in the world. It is very stable rock and is not prone to fissures or cracks. They contemplated going two miles down and one mile over where caves would be dug out of the side wall much like any mining operation. The pellets and fuel rods would be stored in the rooms which would then be filled with solid concrete.

If we do not have a better way to neutralize nuclear fuel waste rods this is about as far away from human touch and influencing humans as we can possibly get. However it was reviewed by the Seaborn commission and rejected as an option even though it was actively promoted by citizens of Pinawa anxious to find alternate employment given that AECL Pinawa was decommissioned and shut down.

We hoped to have an opportunity at the committee to hear from a broad sector of representatives from the scientific community. A lot of experts made representations but just as many had serious reservations about the bill as it stands.

Therefore the NDP critic, the member for Windsor--St. Clair, put forth two dozen substantive amendments that we believe would have made Bill C-27 an effective piece of legislation and given confidence to the Canadian public that the government is prepared to deal with the worrisome issue of storage of nuclear fuel waste. The amendments were rejected. None succeeded.

This frankly does not give us the message that the government was interested in doing the best job it could. The government could have been a lot more open to realistic recommendations from opposition members. This is too important an issue to play politics with. I know it has become a bit of a cliché for members to stand in the House of Commons and make this part of their speech.

In this case surely we have to rise above petty politics. It seems to be a rule on the government side to not allow opposition amendments in most cases simply because it does not want to show any kind of vulnerability in that sense. I believe that most Canadians still are very concerned about the issue of nuclear power in general. Certainly their main reservation is the storage of nuclear fuel waste although frankly even the operation of the plants is of some concern. The hon. member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes pointed out that Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are still fresh in people's minds. We are not fully comfortable that this science has matured to the degree that it should even be used in as widespread a manner as it is today. Also worrisome is the fact that Canada is actively promoting, selling and marketing nuclear power plants to developing nations in many cases, to parts of the world that are even less able to deal with the nuclear fuel waste problem than we are.

I would point out as well that it was the Canadian government that sold Pakistan its Candu and shortly after that Pakistan had nuclear military capability. We sold Candus to India and shortly after that India had nuclear weapons capability. We are selling Candus to Turkey, where the plan is to build them on fault lines of earthquake zones.

We are not really being very good global corporate citizens, in a sense, if we are selling these products to places where, first, we are unable to guarantee that they will be used safely and for the peaceful purpose of generating energy and, second, no management agency oversight committee will be able to enforce the safe storage of nuclear waste pellets, such as in Turkey, Pakistan, India or the other places where we are flogging, promoting and pushing these things. Many Canadians are uncomfortable with the entire nuclear industry strategy of our country.

The problem of course with the nuclear fuel pellets is NIMBY, not in my backyard. No one wants these things in their backyard. What on earth will we do when we have pools the size of olympic swimming pools all around the world full of these pellets? They are being stored and stockpiled in big olympic sized pools. No one has come up with a satisfactory way of dealing with them. I thought our approach toward generating energy had matured a little beyond that. At least we are starting to talk in terms of whole costing and will not undertake anything until we have factored in the whole cost of not only the development or the generating of the unit of energy but also the cleanup of the impact of that unit of energy.

Certainly in the fossil fuel energy sector most people now recognize that the cost of a barrel of oil is not $18 or $27 a barrel or whatever the OPEC cartel is selling oil for. The real cost of a barrel of oil is approximately $150 a barrel. When we factor in the costs of the American military keeping the Persian Gulf shipping lanes open and when we factor in environmental degradation, the real cost of a barrel of oil is really more in the nature of $150 a barrel, which actually renders all alternative sources of energy a bargain by comparison. When we look at what the real cost of a barrel of oil is, we see that developing solar or wind energy would be far cheaper. I should acknowledge that in the budget released on December 10 there is mention of money going to developing alternative energy in the area of wind generation and I am very pleased to see that.

The one area Canadians should really be looking at is not even the supply side of energy but the demand side. We, all the developed nations, should be curbing our insatiable appetite to burn energy, but especially Canada. Canada uses more energy per capita than any country in the world. A lot of people do not realize that. A lot of people think that Americans consume more than we do. It is actually Canadians who gobble up more energy per capita than any other country in the world, yet we do the least in terms of demand side management.

The state of California, through the Bonneville Power Administration, the power authority in the state of California, has precluded the need for eight nuclear power stations in the last five years by their demand side management measures. It goes beyond just turning off the light when one leaves a room. There are comprehensive, government sponsored programs in place for every private residence, commercial business and industrial factory in the state to take active measures to reduce their energy consumption.

The state of California has not ground to a halt. It has been no great inconvenience. What it has done is precluded the need for eight new nuclear power plants. That is smart. I wish our own government would show a little more leadership in that regard. This is a state sponsored initiative. The Tennessee Valley Hydro Authority has done similar things that have precluded the need for three nuclear power plants, again in that same period of time as our research shows us.

We believe that through demand side management we could take some of the pressure off the whole thorny issue of what to do with nuclear waste pellets. Even if we do not embrace demand side management as we should, the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec are concentrating on hydroelectricity, which is far preferable to nuclear power.

With some co-ordination and a national energy strategy we could be supplying parts of Ontario now relying on nuclear plants with clean, renewable, affordable and relatively cheap hydroelectric power, as we are doing in selling our products to the United States. Manitoba makes approximately $400 million per year in power sales to the United States. The grids are just starting to open up. It is an open ended enterprise.

Let me get back to the issue of demand side management because it really is where we should go. A unit of energy harvested from the existing system by demand side management measures is indistinguishable from a unit of energy developed at a nuclear power station except for a couple of important things. First, it is available at about one-third the cost. Second, generating it creates approximately seven times the number of person years of employment. In other words it creates more jobs. We are paying less for it but more of the money goes into jobs rather than infrastructure or the actual hardware associated with it.

A third important thing is that it is available and on line for resale immediately. As soon as I save a unit of energy by turning off a light, that unit can be sold to another customer, hopefully to export it and make money, making it a revenue generator. The fourth important thing to remember is that it reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions and is in keeping with our obligations under the Kyoto protocol.

I understand I have only two minutes left, but I am glad I was able to point out some of those things. Let me wrap up by saying that if we did a poll we would see that the Canadian public by and large is not yet comfortable with nuclear energy. I believe that is healthy. There are many reasons for this. We simply do not accept everything we are being told by the nuclear industry, that everything is hunky-dory. Everything is not hunky-dory because we cannot even figure out how to store our nuclear waste fuel pellets.

This is where Bill C-27 is very much a necessary bill. The public needs the confidence that comes from knowing that the government is doing something about this, but the bill falls short of really giving confidence to the public because of the many things I have pointed out. The member for Windsor--St. Clair very conveniently itemized them for us and I went through them, but the fact that the board of directors as contemplated in Bill C-27 would be made up of the stakeholders in the nuclear industry is like the fox watching the henhouse. It does not give the Canadian public any confidence that this would be dealt with in an adequate way.

The privatization of utilities, the relentless pressure from the right wingers, from the Tories and the Alliance, which want to privatize everything, is of great concern to most Canadians, because once an industry is in the private sector and profit is the motive, the correct storage of nuclear fuel waste becomes a bottom line issue. There will be efforts to curb the expense. It becomes a cost factor that corporations resent.

We believe Bill C-27 should go back to the drawing board and some safeguards should be put in place so that there is an objective management committee made up of citizens, not stakeholders.

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5:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member as he talked about the different potentials for the development of the power that we need in the country. I agree with him that saving a unit of energy is extremely important. He talked about nuclear energy, wind power and energy provided through the burning of oil and other fuels. I do not disagree with a lot of what he said, but he did not talk about another great source of energy that we certainly have in abundance in Newfoundland and Labrador and that is water power.

Perhaps governments should concentrate on developing the Lower Churchill, which would be a benefit not only to us but to our friends in Quebec who have benefited very greatly from the development of the Upper Churchill, taking in close to $1 billion a year while we get about $10 million from it. Even in a fair sharing development project, it would be economically beneficial to both of us and to the whole country because the markets are great and it is a clean, renewable source of power. I wonder what the member thinks of that.

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5:50 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to respond to the hon. member's question regarding hydroelectric power. I am an advocate and a big fan of hydroelectric power. The province of Manitoba has also done very well by developing its hydro energy possibilities on the Churchill and Nelson rivers, the Nelson-Burntwood system. I myself worked on a hydroelectric dam as a carpenter for many years and know quite a bit about the industry.

I believe this is the direction we should take. I note with interest that the Minister of Indian Affairs is in the House today listening to this debate. I am sure he is interested in an undertaking by the province of Manitoba wherein the next hydroelectric dam being developed in the province of Manitoba will have not only the guarantee of jobs for local aboriginal people but an equity share in the dam for them. All revenue generated from it will in fact be partly theirs. They are full partners in the development of this hydroelectric project, which I think is very innovative.

We believe a lot more development could take place in hydroelectric power within the country and we do not believe that any nuclear power generating stations should be developed until we have exhausted all other avenues, hydroelectric power being the best option currently.

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5:55 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, first off, I really enjoyed the speech by my NDP colleague. Since the start of the session, our positions have been quite similar, except, naturally—and I see him nodding—on the national issue, where our positions are truly diametrically opposed.

I would like to go over a few points in his speech. He spoke, as did his colleague from the Progressive Conservative Democratic Representative Coalition, of the fact that we must focus on developing renewable sources of energy, specifically of hydroelectricity. I agree, of course, since it was not only a major force behind the economy of Quebec but also an environmental solution.

However, there is another factor to be taken into consideration. The effect of climate change is a significant drop in the level of the basins. Yesterday, if I am not mistaken, a report on Radio-Canada's Téléjournal brought home the fact that climate change is having a significant impact on our economy.

We cannot avoid dealing with the question of major climate change and, in my opinion, we must look to the development of new renewable energies. Wind energy, among others, comes to mind.

My colleague mentioned that the state of California has acted on demand. He neglected to point out, however, that it also acted on supply, that there are refundable tax credit programs for wind turbine production. The state government pays 7 cents per kilowatthour produced. Why are we not doing this in Canada, it may be asked.

This is one failing of the latest budget in which this same sort of program was announced, but with an investment of only $165 million and not for one year, but for 15 years, whereas we invest $150 million annually in Canada in nuclear fission. The latest budget provides sums of $165 million over 15 years for the development of wind energy, while we invest $150 million each year in nuclear fission alone.

What does he think of the Bloc Quebecois proposal to have this $150 million spent annually on nuclear fission transferred to green energy, including wind and hydroelectricity?