Masse in the House on Bill C-22
Speaking out on nuclear waste Liability
March 26th, 2014 - 5:09pm
Brian Masse- Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague, who gave some outstanding reasons as to why we have concerns about Bill C-22, An Act respecting Canada's offshore oil and gas operations, enacting the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act, repealing the Nuclear Liability Act and making consequential amendments to other Acts. I will be focusing on some of the nuclear aspects of this legislation, but I will include some of the offshore issues as well.
First and foremost, we have to recognize how long it has taken for this legislation to be updated. The legislation was first tabled in 1976, and it is extremely outdated. It has been a low priority for the Conservative government, and it is sad that it has taken so long to come to the chamber. That is regrettable, because some important decisions need to be made with regard to the shipping of nuclear steam generators that need treatment and with regard to deep geological repository storage of secondary nuclear waste. I will focus on these two issues shortly.
The issue that we are really concerned about is the $1 billion liability covering Canadians. Canadians have been subsidizing nuclear energy for decades, and they are now facing the consequences of outdated legislation and not having proper safety regimes in place. Should there be an accident requiring some cleanup and damage control, there would be major subsidies. That is important to note, because taxpayers need to be aware that they are at risk.
People would not have insurance like this on their houses. This would be like having house insurance that only covers a fraction of what could be written off, despite paying a high price for the insurance. That is the equivalent of what is in this legislation. It is similar to having auto insurance that would only permit the bumper to be written off if the entire car was wrecked in an accident. We cannot stress enough the negligence in this measure, because other countries have been doing a much better job, and I will name a few of them.
They really understand nuclear energy. Part of their overall strategy is to require companies to clean up when necessary. There have been disasters and costs associated with those disasters, and I will highlight some of the costs to those countries with respect to liability.
Germany has unlimited absolute nuclear liability and financial security of $3.3 billion per power plant. The United States has absolute unlimited nuclear liability of $12.6 billion. Other countries are moving toward unlimited liability.
The cost could be over $250 billion with respect to Fukushima. This shows us that $1 billion is not a lot, given some of our aging nuclear facilities and the requirements they have.
I would like to note two examples in particular that we have been working on in southern Ontario. One was the Bruce power plant proposal to ship nuclear steam generators across the Great Lakes, which was fortunately scrapped. In February 2011 the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission issued a statement allowing the transport of these steam generators through the Great Lakes. This would have exposed people to radiation. The problem was that the generators would go from Canada to Sweden for treatment. The generators were going to be scrapped, but it was claimed that the contaminated nuclear material could be recycled and then sent back to Ontario.
Sending these huge steam generators through the Great Lakes would have exposed Canadians to great risk, as was brought up by the Ontario New Democrats, in particular Peter Tabuns. I would like to thank Mayor Bradley from Sarnia for his advocacy and strong leadership. First nations also expressed their opposition to this idea, and the Council of Canadians had petitions signed by 96,000 people.
These radioactive steam generators also created problems on the U.S. side, as American politicians started speaking against this idea. That was important, because the commission wanted to do this without a full environmental assessment, but when it became clear that it was not going to take place in the United States, it backed off from this program.
I am thankful, because the Great Lakes it is one of the world's most treasured ecological systems for the environment and for our economy.
Just this past week, I and a number of members of Parliament had the opportunity to go out on ice-breaking manoeuvres on Lake St. Clair with our great men and women of the Coast Guard. I can say that shipping goes on during the winter. Those men and women do an incredible job. It is critical for our economy and our environment. As opposed to putting that at risk for steam generators and recycling and having no plan, we should be taking care of our own nuclear waste. We have had a lot of concerns. I again want to thank a number of organizations that are opposed to that.
There is another important situation that is still evolving. In Kincardine, the Bruce Power plant wants to store its secondary radiation elements down a shaft, basically, within one kilometre of Lake Huron. They want to bury it in a layer of limestone 680 metres underground near the Bruce Power station. There are a lot of concerns about that. The scientist Dr. Frank Greening, a former employee, raised the fact that the numbers for the many radioactive elements that would be shipped there have been underestimated. This is of great concern. There has been a huge public outcry with respect to storage facilities so close to our water system, placing it at risk.
I want to thank a number of organizations that have been active with respect to this. If members are interested in this issue, because a decision has to come forward at some point in time, these groups are the Inverhuron Committee, Northwatch, Save our Saugeen Shores, and Bluewater Coalition. People can sign a petition online at the Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump website. I want to thank those organizations for their leadership, because they have seen that the exposure of our Great Lakes system would hurt our economy, our transportation, and our environment. There has been a lot of work done by these organizations to raise public awareness, because we still do not treat our Great Lakes properly. That is one reason we need to start investing in it. We must be cognizant that with the nuclear power plant situation, there would be costs. There should be the polluter pays principle. That is not happening. We saw that in the past with Three Mile Island and other situations in North America.
I will quote from The Star with respect to an incident that happened most recently. It states:
A U.S. nuclear waste site near Carlsbad, New Mexico leaked radiation in February. Proponents of the Bruce site have taken local municipal officials on tours of the Carlsbad site. Thirteen workers at Carlsbad were exposed to radiation, where an investigation continues.
That is important, because the type of work it is talking about in terms of this site operation has been described as a guinea pig, which is not the way we would expect to be dealing with our nuclear waste and the problems associated with the cost of it. We need to be responsible.
Cities like Windsor, Toronto, Kingston, London, and Hamilton have all opposed this. Also rejecting the site are Oakville, Mississauga, the town of Blue Mountain, Sarnia, Lambton County, Essex, and the town of Kingsville, just to name a few.
That is why we think the bill needs a lot of work at committee. We are willing to try. This liability issue of $1 billion is a childish way to approach dealing with this serious problem. We would like to see that fixed. We will see what happens at committee in the future.
Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I only caught the last half of the speech by the member for Windsor West. What troubles me about his remarks is that he was praising a number of groups that opposed steam generator transport, thereby criticizing the work of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which is a quasi-judicial body that uses science and expert testimony to determine whether something is safe for transport.
In the case of those steam generators, the misinformation by the Council of Canadians and other groups, which is not based on science but on fear, actually hurts the economy and hurt jobs, like those of the Power Workers' Union.
Those generators would have less chance of exposing people to radioactivity than an X-ray a Canadian might have. It is a radically low amount.
I would ask the member if his party, the NDP, puts the work of the Council of Canadians and some of these email-based groups above the work of our quasi-judicial Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the parliamentary secretary is taking such a condescending tone toward those organizations, those citizens of our country, and some Americans who signed the online petition, who are concerned about this. He also takes a condescending tone toward American politicians who signed against this. That does not help our relationship with our American friends. Senators and congressmen being typecast by the member does no justice to this House and does nothing for our relationship with the United States.
Simply put, these large steam generators would be put on transportation vessels going across the Great Lakes and across the ocean to Sweden. Yes, nothing could go wrong in that situation; I am sure he is right about that. It is ridiculous to suggest that they would be the perfect solution.
Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for his remarks. I think he has raised some important questions about the storage of nuclear waste, although I do not think they are evidence-based, but I do commend him for raising them.
For a third time, I will ask an NDP member speaking to the bill to answer a very simple question. What is the position of the New Democratic Party with respect to nuclear power in Canada today? What would it do with the almost 60% of energy in Ontario that is generated through nuclear power? Does it intend to phase out those plants? If so, what would the NDP replace them with exactly?
I am trying to get an understanding of the actual position of the NDP today with respect to existing nuclear power in Canada, the use of nuclear power in Canada going forward, and the ability of Canadian nuclear expertise to conquer international markets.
Mr. Speaker, we are not going to take the bait on this type of situation.
The reality is that we are debating a bill that has very specific measures that concern us. We are going to continue to use our time to raise the fact that Canadians would be put at risk by this bill, both financially and in terms of their well-being. We are going to continue to raise this every single time we talk, because it is a significant liability for this country. It is the most important thing, which is why we do not care what the Liberal policy is.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Windsor West for his excellent speech.
The Conservatives are talking about atomic and nuclear energy in Canada, while they have slashed basic research on all university campuses across Canada. How can they brag about being leaders in atomic and nuclear energy? It is very important that we discuss atomic and nuclear waste and all the adverse effects it can have on the environment. He spoke about the Great Lakes in Ontario, which are a vital natural resource for Canada and the United States.
Mr. Speaker, we need to look at some of the models from other countries in rolling out the policy. Germany, in particular, and others have much more profound and robust strategies. That is what I believe we should be doing.