Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on Bill C-4, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. I listened to the speech by the minister with interest and I have a few observations which I will share with the House.
We all know that Canadians are very sensitive when it comes to the nuclear industry. They have the right to be and they should be. As elected representatives of the people it is our foremost duty to protect Canadians and assure their safety. It is also our moral responsibility to keep our environment as clean and pollution free as we can.
The purpose of the bill is to amend “the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to vary the classes of persons that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission may order to take measures to reduce the levels of contamination of a place”. The bill corrects a clause in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act preventing debt financing in the nuclear power sector, which could result in the government getting involved in financing the nuclear power sector.
Subsection 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act is replaced by the following:
Where, after conducting a hearing, the Commission is satisfied that there is contamination referred to in subsection (1), the Commission may, in addition to filing a notice under subsection (2), order that the owner or occupant of, or any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
Lenders, banks and other financial institutions are refusing to consider approval of investment in the nuclear power sector due to a clause in the current Nuclear Safety and Control Act that would make the lenders liable in a case of a nuclear spill or accident or any other consequences thereof. This clause is not contained in other Canadian environmental legislation. Subsection 46(3) makes anyone with “an interest” in contaminated land or facilities liable for environmental remediation, and mortgage lenders and persons advancing funds and taking security on land are deemed as persons with an interest. I was a director of a credit union at one time. I remember the environmental assessment requirements imposed at that time and the onus on the financial institutions. It caused a furor in the industry at that time. We know how the lenders feel when they have to deal with that kind of liability.
I have a few examples of how the industry is already suffering because of this. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. has indicated that it is ready to explore the possibility of buying the reactors to ensure that the refurbishment is conducted. AECL is looking for private sector backers to help pay for the project because it would prove that refurbishing CANDU reactors in Canada and around the world is feasible. So on the one hand there is research and development and high technology, and on the other hand it is a funding problem for the nuclear industry.
Here is another example. British Energy plc Bruce Power, which currently owns the lease to operate Ontario's Bruce nuclear power plant, has no clean and tidy answers about its ability to post a $222 million guarantee to comply with its licence to operate an Ontario nuclear power plant. Bruce Power wants Canada's nuclear power plant regulator to consider alternatives to a requirement that the venture have enough cash on hand to operate for six months in case it has to shut down reactors and pay for any disaster cleanup.
The venture is looking into getting insurance against shutdowns, obtaining a credit rating and credit facilities, or changing its ownership structure. As we know, British Energy owns about 82% of the venture, Saskatoon-based Cameco Corporation, the world's largest uranium miner, owns 15%, and workers' unions own the rest of the power plant.
It is very difficult for the industry because of this particular restriction to arrange any financing or sponsoring of those projects. Canadian law generally limits lender liability to those with charge, management or control of secure assets, and investors recognize this standard form of liability and factor it into their agreements. Due to the unusual level of liability commanded by subsection 46(3), investors in the nuclear power sector are refusing to provide debt financing. That is a serious challenge and difficulty. Large scale projects--