Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-5 at the third reading stage. The Bloc Québécois thinks that this bill is important to protect citizens and not to promote nuclear energy. I want to make that clear.
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to thank the people who worked on this bill: the researchers, the members of the committee and the witnesses, as well as all the legislative staff who helped prepare this bill.
Before I explain why we support this bill and defend the amounts in it, I would like to give an overview of the current nuclear energy situation in Canada.
The Minister of Natural Resources recently spoke to the Economic Club of Toronto about the merits of nuclear energy, including a new generation of reactors. By the way, where are those reactors? It is a secret, like all those other things the government keeps secret. Later on in his speech, he mentioned that it would take decades to find a safe disposal site. We agree with him there. It is clear that a site will not be found quickly.
Furthermore, the global partnership launched by Mr. Bush for the reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel, which Canada has joined, is light years away from becoming a reality. I would remind the House that, in France, this project was in the works for 15 years before it was abandoned as unworkable. By relying on all the other countries, President Bush thinks it is feasible. So far, no progress has been made on this. Everyone thinks that we will simply be left with nuclear waste to transport and dispose of.
This bill establishes a limit of $650 million in compensation and we think this is a fair amount. In any case, we could not put this system in place and ask for any more than the $650 million requested, because the insurance companies would never agree to it. As it is, reinsurance will be needed to make up the difference.
We do not think that we could have a situation like that of the United States where full responsibility falls to the companies. With a common fund that varies between $9 billion and $11 billion, they share responsibility in the event of an accident. That is not the kind of approach we have taken here. Instead, we decided on an insurance plan that cannot exceed $650 million. We think this represents a marked improvement over previous legislation, which provided for $70 million or $75 million.
This bill, however, has some major gaps. Of course, the government and the entire population should be able to provide all the money needed in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, the calculation of probabilities would suggest that an accident is likely to happen sooner or later, since one occurs every 30 years. Let us hope that it is not in Canada. If, however, that is the case, $650 million will not be enough. It will be the entire population that will have to pay in order to continue compensating the people affected by the disaster, the conflagration—fire is usually the result—or the radiation.
But the law does not provide for compensation by insurance companies in case of war or sabotage, including terrorist acts. We know that right now, terrorist activity is the greatest threat to nuclear power. That is what both Canada and the United States fear most. Since 2001, Canada's budget for protection from terrorism has quadrupled. I will review the numbers shortly. These costs are not included in the price per kilowatt hour.
These costs are not included because they are for protection, for security agencies. Those budgets do not fall within the Department of Natural Resources' purview.
Information about this energy source is utterly contradictory. Our minister insists on telling us that it is clean energy. Yet it generates waste, and there is a significant accident risk. About 60 accidents happen every year in Canada. They are usually minor, but major accidents could happen.
We are told that radiation is not a problem, even with uranium 235 mining. That is not true. As miners work, radon, a colourless, odourless gas, emanates from the mine walls. As a result, the miners are exposed to radiation. Health-wise, that is even more dangerous than asbestos. The inescapable result is cancer. Mines can be ventilated, but as we all know, it is very hard to ventilate tunnels at the very bottom of mines, where there is the most radon. It is dangerous for miners and for those transporting the ore.
Since 2006, the government has had big problems with nuclear energy. I will list them.
In September 2007, the safety report seriously called into question nuclear safety across Canada. That is why we are now trying to change and comply with international safety standards. Because of them, it will cost much more to renovate existing plants.
There was the isotope crisis. The safety of the Chalk River laboratories was called into question. Then there was the firing of Ms. Keen, the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, who was highly qualified but annoyed and embarrassed the government. There was the disorganized crisis management on site.
There was also the study on privatizing Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, an issue that still has not been resolved one way or the other. The latest problem was the failure of MAPLE. It was announced on May 16, not long ago, that the MAPLE reactors would not be brought on stream, because they could not be made functional.
There is still the fragility caused by terrorism. I will come back to this, because it is true. Terrorism targets only two types of energy: nuclear energy and liquefied natural gas at liquefied natural gas terminals. Only in these two areas can terrorism really hit hard. Some people do not believe that and think that hydroelectric dams can be terrorist targets. This would be rather surprising, though. During the last war, people had a hard time destroying hydroelectric dams. Rest assured that terrorists will not attack dams.
However, in the case of nuclear power, you do not need a huge plane to destroy the small buildings that protect the pools of water used to cool nuclear waste. That can be done very easily. It would also be very easy to blow these buildings to pieces by dropping a bomb on one of them. Hence, the threat of terrorism against nuclear power lurks everywhere. We need only think of the transportation of MOX. Wherever there is radioactivity, there can be terrorism.
Furthermore, waste management poses a problem. The minister told us that it will take decades to resolve. He just appointed a commission, the largest we have ever had: some 70 to 75 people will be involved. It will take years to identify a solution.
I would like to bring up another point pertaining to nuclear power. It is a source of energy and that is a provincial jurisdiction. We believe that nuclear energy must be managed by Quebec.
We accept that the safety standards may be Canadian. We are just as interested in preventing Ontario nuclear power plants from blowing up. Yet, I will reiterate that energy is a provincial jurisdiction. By the way, Hydro-Québec is doing a very good job.
Let us go back to the issue of waste. According to the Minister of Natural Resources, Canada is far from finding a location for burying the waste because no community has agreed to have a waste disposal site in its area.
Therefore, we support this bill but with some reservations. The bill must not promote nuclear power. Canadians are not convinced of the future of nuclear power. According to surveys, in spite of all the promotion of nuclear power and all the lobbying, the fact remains that a majority are still against it, particularly in Quebec, where citizens strongly oppose it.
Before we decide to promote nuclear energy, we would have to really consult the public. That includes experts, people knowledgeable about energy and the people who live next to reactors, which is important because they would be the first to be impacted by an accident.
We would also need to consult with the people living along the route where the waste would be transported. We remember the 150 municipalities that were against the transportation of MOX in Quebec. The people living in the province where the waste will be buried should also be consulted.
All of these people need to be consulted, not just the pro-nuclear lobbyists with huge sums of money that often comes from governments. In the United States, Bush invested $18.5 billion in the promotion of nuclear energy.
Given that there are 22 nuclear plants in Canada, it seems reasonable to offer the public insurance that will give them a minimum amount of protection. This should not be used to build other plants, but should protect the ones that already exist.
According to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Gentilly-2 in Quebec respects and surpasses the regulatory requirements in all of the safety categories. That is great, but it does not mean that there will never be an accident. In fact, there was one recently.
The budgets allocated for nuclear safety may have quadrupled since the September 11 attacks, but authorities believe that there are still flaws in the system that could one day pose a threat to national security. That is not very reassuring.
We know that security measures at Gentilly-2 have been stepped up since 2001, but Hydro-Québec has been reluctant to reveal the costs. We can imagine why, even if this corporation does a good job. Even the authorities admit that there is always a possibility of a terrorist attack at any of the existing plants.
I have here an excerpt from a report issued by the CNSC that shows the possibility of accidents in Canada. Earlier I was saying there are roughly 60 accidents every year. An accident occurred two months ago—and the document from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission talks about an “accident”—involving a fueling machine removing fuel from one of the reactor channels in order to access a process tube and replace the spacer blocks. When it was being moved, the back of the fueling machine broke off and pushed the lift truck against a pillar, which shut the machine off.
The fuel clusters were not affected, but they could have been. If that had happened, they would have spilled outside the cooling water, which could have caused a major accident.
It does not take much to cause an accident. A more serious accident could occur at any given time. Nuclear power is still not safe and is still dangerous.
That is why we want to pass Bill C-5, to protect these generating stations. We would not have to pass such a bill for wind energy. There is no risk of anyone being hit on the head by a rotor blade. We would not have to pass such a bill for solar energy because it is not dangerous. The worst that can happen is that a panel or a pipe breaks. With geothermal we can produce large quantities of electricity and we would not have to legislate that energy either. Why? Because there is no risk of catastrophe with geothermal plants. I toured one this winter in New Zealand. It has been there for 50 years. They have to replace a few pipes now and then, but there is no danger. The risk of catastrophe only exists with nuclear energy and natural gas terminals, as I was saying earlier.
Fortunately, no radiation leaked from the nuclear generating station during this accident. And the term “accident” does in fact appear in the document. I am not making it up.
I heard my colleague say earlier that if facilities were built underground, it would be less dangerous. That does not solve all the problems. It does not solve the problems with transporting MOX; or with mining and transporting uranium 235; or with safely disposing of spent radioactive materials; or with the use of cooling water and the possibility of leaks after an earthquake. It also does not solve the problem of potential terrorist attacks, or the risks of sabotage, even if facilities are built underground. So it does not solve all the problems. That is why a nuclear power plant, underground or above ground, is a time bomb.
Earlier I spoke about the transportation of MOX. There are 150 municipalities that have spoken out against this type of transportation because they say it is very dangerous. There is currently an international movement on the quality of safety, called the Integrated Safety Review, which is a cut above what we have now. Yes, safety is a good thing, but the problem with this type of safety review is that it increases the cost of facilities by two or three times the estimated amount, especially for facilities in need of repair.
I will use the example of a facility I know, the Gentilly facility. The cost of renovating this facility had been estimated at $1.5 billion. Aggel and Baly, people whose job it is to assess the cost of work to be done on nuclear facilities, estimated that if the new standards were applied, the cost would rise to $2 billion, a significant increase. They also say that this price could very likely go up to $3 billion, double the original estimate.
However, all that is for a very limited length of time, because that is the problem. I had a graph that I would like to show the House. A nuclear facility produces electricity at peak capacity for only a brief period of time. Looking at the table, we can see that the first nuclear reactors came on line in 1970 and reached peak production in 1995. Since then, they have been declining steadily. They are less and less efficient. Even if they are renovated, they will not last much longer.
Mr. Speaker, I see that I have only a minute left, but I could have talked about nuclear energy all afternoon, as it is an extremely important issue.
At present, safety is not what it should be. The newspapers recently reported that an additional $93 million was needed for safety.
I would like the money spent on nuclear safety to be invested in green energy sources such as wind and geothermal energy. The government would see that other types of projects cost far less and are much safer. We are pro-safety. If the government is really pro-safety, it should not be building any more nuclear facilities.