moved that Bill C-4, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House at second reading of Bill C-4, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. It gives me great pleasure to stand before the House today in support of this bill. It is a one clause bill with the same provision as that contained in Bill C-57 introduced in the House in May 2002.
The amendment clarifies the wording in subsection 46(3) of the act which has had the consequence of extending the obligation for site remediation beyond the owners and managers to private sector lending institutions. This is an anomaly that must be corrected.
Under the current wording of subsection 46(3), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has the authority to order the owner or occupant or any other person with a right to or an interest in to take prescribed measures to reduce the level of radioactive contamination. This proposed amendment clarifies the subsection by deleting the words “person with a right or interest in” and replacing them with the words “person who has the management and control”.
This subsection has discouraged the private sector from lending to the nuclear industry. The industry is a vital component of the Canadian economy. It includes electric power plants, uranium mines and refineries. Nuclear energy supplies 13% of Canada's electricity. It thus contributes to the diversity which helps to ensure the security of our energy supply.
The nuclear industry is more than electricity, however. Nuclear technology has daily applications in industry, material science and in sterilizing medical items. Medical isotopes produced in reactors are used to diagnose and treat disease. In fact, Canada is a world leader in producing medical isotopes which are used around the globe.
The amendment serves to clarify the risk for institutions lending to companies in the nuclear industry. A lender who goes into management and control of a nuclear facility would be within the reach of this subsection.
No other industrial sector or power generation sector is encumbered by a federal provision of this nature that discourages their access to bank lending. For example, the chemical and natural gas industries do not have the problem we are trying to fix.
The nuclear industry must have access to commercial credit to finance its needs, just like any other sector. This amendment will allow the nuclear industry to attract market capital and equity. It is not, and should not be misconstrued as, a measure to provide favourable treatment to the nuclear industry. All the stringent mechanisms embodied in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and regulations, which are designed to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe and environmentally sound manner, are still in place and unaffected by this provision.
For example, in the class 1 nuclear facilities regulations, which deal with the large power reactors, the commission requires industry to provide detailed information about their environmental protection policies and procedures, effluent and environmental monitoring programs and environmental baseline studies. The commission continues to have the authority to act to suspend the licence for any activity when it concludes that the activity carried on poses an unreasonable risk to the environment, health and safety or security. These examples show that the commission's mandate to prevent unreasonable risk to the environment will continue to be fulfilled.
Nuclear power is a proven technology for generating electricity. It has been in commercial operation in Canada for more than 30 years. There are currently 438 nuclear power plants around the world, producing 16% of the world's electricity. The only non-greenhouse gas emitting source which produces a larger share of the world's electricity is hydro power, which produces 19%.
Governments are encouraging more private sector participation in the ownership and management of facilities in all energy sectors. Companies with nuclear operations need access to the same financial instruments available to other companies. This means that companies need the participation of banks and other financial organizations to attract market capital and equity to finance ongoing and future operations.
We must be fair and consistent. We must ensure that all companies have an equal opportunity to conduct their business and to better position themselves in the marketplace. At the same time we must ensure that these companies are fully responsible for environmental stewardship. This approach maintains the authority of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to take the necessary measures for site remediation against those who have management and control.
The bill will put us in a win-win situation. It will not in any way weaken Canada's stringent licensing and regulatory regime, which is designed to protect human health, safety and security and the environment. At the same time it will put the nuclear industry on an equal footing with other industrial and power generation sectors and clarify that owners or those who manage and control have liability for site remediation.
I reiterate that the bill is not a measure to provide favourable treatment to the nuclear industry. It does not contain any hidden agenda. It demonstrates the government's commitment to implement its policy strategy to achieve smart regulation, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne. The bill will help “achieve the public good” and at the same time enhance “the climate for investment and trust in markets”. I would ask the hon. members to join me in voting to send this bill to committee.