Mr. Speaker, once again I stand to speak to Bill .
In my previous speech, which was about a month ago, I took the time to describe all the amendments that we proposed on this bill. Our concern is the impact on the ability of people to obtain compensation in the event of a nuclear accident. Much of the bill favours the nuclear industry over those who may be seeking compensation from the industry in the case of an accident or any kind of incident at a nuclear plant.
The nuclear industry is heating up in this country. There are proposals in two provinces in western Canada for nuclear reactors. The movement toward nuclear energy seems to be gaining some steam in the country, yet none of the basic issues that speak to the concerns Canadians have over the development of this industry have been addressed. There is still no plan for waste disposal. The roles of government and private industry in the nuclear industry have not been clarified. We still have not determined whether the nuclear industry is cost effective in this country. Over and over we have subsidized the development of nuclear energy. At the same time this bill does not give proper coverage and protection for the liability that could occur with a nuclear accident.
A $650 million liability limit is the minimum possible for Canada to match with international agreements. We have said over and over that that is not good enough. The United States, our closest trading partner, carries liability far in excess of $650 million for each plant in that country.
The Conservative government is moving ahead with a bill that does not adequately do the job. We have pointed that out over and over again. We have attempted to work with the government on amendments in committee and here in the House. We have been stonewalled by the government. We have been stonewalled by the official opposition as well. The Liberals have not shown much responsibility.
Hon. John Baird: Call them “the Liberal”. There is only one of them here.
Mr. Dennis Bevington: Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on people's attendance in the House of Commons. That is against the traditions of the House. I would hope hon. members would not encourage me to do that.
The Bloc is supporting this bill as well. This bill is a half-hearted attempt to set a proper liability limit. There is an attempt within the bill to provide many outs for companies in case of a requirement for compensation. It is difficult for private individuals to obtain the kind of compensation that would be necessary as a result of a nuclear accident.
It is simply not good enough to have time limits of three years or ten years in which people could expect to see an impact from nuclear accidents. We already know that 30 and 40 years later people are coming forward with health issues from nuclear accidents. People are bringing forward situations where nuclear material has been transported from one area to another and it ends up in housing units or it has been used for fill in some cases. These incidents eventually have an impact on people's lives.
When the limits within Bill are set to such a short term, it opens the door for companies to avoid being responsible. Of course that is good for the companies, that is good for the surety of the industry, but it is not good for Canadians. As a member of Parliament who has been elected by individual Canadians and not by companies, I am here to try to bring clarity to this bill as it impacts on Canadians. We are frustrated with trying to move forward with some very basic amendments to various terms within this bill for the past year and a half. It has been difficult.
We have seen with the Chalk River incident in December the importance of a strong nuclear safety agency. We have seen the necessity of ensuring that we protect Canadians, that we protect investment and that we protect the direction this country takes with nuclear energy.
There are many reasons not to support this bill. We will continue to debate it today and perhaps tomorrow, and if we can carry this through, this bill will remain unresolved for a few more months. Perhaps Canadians will have a chance to speak up and influence the government.
If the Conservative plan is to sell off Canada's nuclear industry and if this bill is simply to allow foreign companies to purchase the assets of AECL, this issue should be up front. Canadians should understand why we are doing the things we are doing in Parliament, but that is not the case. The government continues to move this bill forward in a fashion that suggests it is simply for other purposes.
Mr. Speaker, Bill , the so-called nuclear liability bill is an obvious misnomer. It purports to provide some security to individuals, corporations and communities impacted by the failure of a nuclear power site and provide them with financial compensation for the consequences of that failure and the contamination that inevitably would flow from it. That is the way the bill is being sold. However, the reality is just the opposite.
The bill has nothing to do with protecting working families, neighbourhoods or communities. It is all about making it easier for private interests to build nuclear plants. It is part of the government's agenda, as it was part of the former government's agenda to some significant degree, to privatize the nuclear industry in Canada and to sell off the existing operations in a variety of forms, basically to shift all control to the private sector. Any new operations would similarly be owned and operated by the private sector.
There is a fly in the ointment, if I can use that analogy. The reality is the government cannot get financing in the private sector for the nuclear industry for the construction of new plants or for the renovation of existing plants so they meet operational standards because of the potential for a catastrophic financial risk to the lenders if there is even a minor leak of radiation from a nuclear power site.
It is quite clear that the legislation is totally about protecting the interests of the private sector nuclear industry and the people who would finance it. To suggest otherwise is to either be grossly ignorant or dishonest.
I spent some time on a standing committee a few years ago reviewing the waste management organization bill, which was legislation to establish a government organization to deal with potential sites for the disposal of nuclear waste. In the course of the hearings, which went on for quite some time, some of the information that came forward talked about the consequences of contamination from nuclear power sites.
One of the stories I always remember was about a small nuclear plant, one of the original plants built some time in the early fifties in the United States, that was not properly managed. There were small continuous leaks so the entire site was contaminated, something in the range of about 20 acres. Eventually the plant was shut down.
In the 1990s, after the plant had been shut down and sitting dormant for quite some time, through court orders in the United States it was required that the plant be cleaned up. By this time the private operator had gone bankrupt and was out of the picture, so the federal government and the state government had to take on the burden. At that time, there was no liability insurance available for nuclear plants.
There was no requirement, when that plant was built, to establish a fund to deal with the consequences of a leak or to deal with the cleanup once the plant had closed. There was no money there at all, so it was borne by both the federal and state governments in the United States.
They did get rid of the entire building, which of course was contaminated, but then they had to deal with the site, the soil. Their method of dealing with it was to go down to I think something like 20 feet, truck it to an incinerator and burn all of the soil. What was left, which was still radioactive contamination, was then buried and stored at another nuclear plant site. The price tag for this in the early nineties was $13 billion, and there were no buildings that they had to deal with; that was just the soil.
Let us look at what we would be dealing with if we had a Chernobyl-type disaster, and actually we do not really have to go anywhere near that far.
I want to say, as a bit of an aside, that whenever I think of Chernobyl I think of a meeting I was at of the Essex County Federation of Agriculture in the fall this past year. It was the tradition to have a presentation from an outside group on a variety of topics. There have been a number of interesting presentations over the years, but this last year a family from the Chatham area told about the experiences they had in helping the children of Chernobyl.
What happened after Chernobyl was that there was an immediate evacuation of the area of, I think, a 40 or 50 kilometre radius around the plant, especially downwind, and I have to note that the just made a comment about turning the lights out in Saskatchewan. I am sure he is quite capable of operating in the dark because I think that is the way he normally operates.
Back to Chernobyl and a serious issue. When they did this evacuation, they did it in part with the local climatic conditions, in particular with the wind pattern. So people downwind were even more removed.
But then what happened after a number of years, even though the entire site, thousands and thousands of acres, was still contaminated, families started moving back, almost out of desperation and, of course, began producing crops, which continued to be contaminated with radioactive material.
So this family in Chatham and a group they had been helping with had been told that if they could get them out of there, even for a short periods of time, it would reduce substantially their risk of getting cancer from the radioactive exposure they had. And so, there is this international program in Canada, and this family is part of the group, that has begun to assist by bringing both elementary and secondary school-aged children over to other countries.
Ireland is a big participant, as is the United States and Canada. We take students out of that contaminated area during their summer vacations, and just because they are in Canada or in a safe zone for six weeks or seven weeks of the summer, it will dramatically reduce, we are being told by the experts, the potential for them to get cancer, at least at an early age, even though they will go back into the exposure for the balance of the year.
When I think about that story, I also think about who is paying for that. It is not the nuclear industry because it has no liability. The Soviet regime did not require any of that. It is not the current government of Russia or Ukraine because they do not have the resources, Ukraine in particular. This is entirely being funded by this non-profit organization. In fact, the group was there that night to ask for financial assistance. It was interesting to see the emotional response from all of us and a substantial amount of money was raised.
Let us then transpose that to Canada and say we have a significant spill of radioactive material. Whether we take the site at Bruce nuclear or the ones on Lake Ontario near the Toronto-Oshawa area, if there were not money to take care of the area around Chernobyl and there still is no money, imagine what it is going to be like if we have that kind of a disaster in Ontario? What is $650 million going to do?
That is what the absolute maximum limit is under this legislation. It would not do much for that site in the United States that cost $13 billion back in the nineties, which would probably be a $20 billion figure now. It would not do anything for all of the families, individuals and children who would be affected because the $650 million would be gone in the twinkle of an eye.
Think about what it does. We have nuclear plants sitting right there on Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. Any substantial spill would significantly impact on the Great Lakes all the way through into the St. Lawrence. We know that contamination, that radiation, has a lifespan that is beyond the comprehension of our current science.
We hear scientists talk about half life. What they are really saying is we do not know yet, in spite of the nuclear industry being six or seven decades old, how long the contamination will last. We get estimates of 1,000 to 10,000 years, but any nuclear scientists of any substantial credential will say that they just do not know, that those are minimum ranges of how long the contamination will last.
Again, think about the nuclear plants at Bruce and Lake Huron. I know that area fairly well. I have family there and I have spent summer vacations in that area of Kincardine, Port Elgin, and South Hampton. Think about what $650 million would do and more importantly what it will not do. It will not deal with anywhere near the property damage and losses that would be consequential from a spill. It will not do any appreciable good for all those claims we are going to have from people who will no longer be able to work and will suffer cancer, early deaths, et cetera. What about all the medical treatment they are going to require? In a situation like this we look at literally the potential for the collapse of our health care system. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is the reality of a substantial spill. That $650 million just does not cut it.
It does not provide protection for individuals, for businesses, for communities, for the province, or for the country. So why are we doing this? We are doing it to try to facilitate the expansion of the nuclear industry and we are doing it to make it possible to privatize the nuclear industry.
If the bill were to go through, and it probably will because it has the support of the government and the opposition parties, other than the NDP, it would actually expand the risk levels. So the $650 million again becomes more of a joke because it would make it possible, which it is not right now, but it would make it possible to expand the nuclear industry.
There is no question that we need legislation in this area, but the legislation should be that there is unlimited liability on the part of the nuclear industry for the consequences flowing from a spill, a rupture.
If we dumped garbage on our neighbours' property, our laws say to us and society says to us that we must pay to clean that up. We do not turn to the government and say it should clean it up. We do not turn to the neighbours where we dumped it and say that it is on their property now and they can clean it up. If one of their children falls and cuts their foot or their hand on the glass that we have dumped on their property, we are responsible because it is our actions that have caused that. That is the tradition in our law, going back to the common law system and the parliamentary system in England for hundreds and hundreds of years.
This legislation says to this sector of the economy that it can get away with that. If it dumps its waste through its negligence on the neighbours' property, whether it is the whole of Lake Ontario and Lake Huron or the neighbours who live downwind in Toronto and Oshawa, it will have not have to pay them beyond this amount. We know the amount is ridiculously low.
In effect, with this legislation, we are giving a permit for the industry to expand and in effect, we are saying to the nuclear industry, we will impose some limited liability on it, but it does not need to worry about it too much because beyond that it is safe. Then the governments, individuals, corporations and businesses will have to pick up the rest of the tab. We know the rest of the tab is many billions of dollars. That is the reality of what we are dealing with.
I want to refer back again to the work that we did in committee with the waste management organization. The risk level continues to rise because we continue to increase the sheer volume of waste that we have from our current plants and of course we will continue to do so if we build any new ones. From all the work that we did in that committee and the reports that really precipitated the work of that committee, there is no safe storage mechanism in the world for nuclear waste.
The Americans have not figured it out in the U.S., which would arguably be the most advanced country in terms of the work that it has been done on nuclear waste and how to deal with it. They have not figured out how to deal with it safely and securely with full protection for society. They have not been able to do it.
It is not simply the length of time that the material remains contaminated by radiation. It is the actual nature of the contaminated material itself. We have no way of dealing with it. We know we can reduce it somewhat in volume, the nuclear rods in particular. We have developed some technology to reduce that part of it by reusing it. There is very limited reduction, but there is a little bit.
Whatever we have been able to do in that regard has been more than offset by just the sheer volume that is being created as the nuclear plants continue to function and provide us with energy.
The risk is going up, literally on a daily basis as the plants continue to operate and continue to produce radioactive material. In this legislation, we would be limiting the liability, so we can only expect that the risk will continue to rise, in particular, if new plants are built.
I was about to say 50 years from now, but let me say for sure that in 100 years or 200 years from now, those societies will look back at what we did here since the early fifties and wonder if we were crazy.
My answer to them would be no, we were just reckless. We were reckless to go down this road in the first place. We were reckless because we see this as a panacea, a solution, in the sense of increasing the use of nuclear technology for energy production. We were reckless because we know we have alternatives that, arguably, even now, and probably for a few years, are less expensive than the nuclear alternatives. We know that if we pumped more money into research and development of alternative fuel sources that we could be even more quickly dealing with this issue.
This is not an answer at all to the problem with which we are confronted, whether it is energy production or it is a--
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to speak to Bill regarding nuclear liability.
What is the cost of cleaning up a nuclear accident? We had a nuclear accident in the 1940s in New Mexico and a series of nuclear accidents in the 1950s in Russia, in Chalk River, Ontario and in Illinois. If I have time later, I will go through some of the examples.
However, the nuclear accidents that captured the public's attention the most were Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Windscale.
I pay a lot of attention to Chernobyl because we have seen a huge increase in the rate of thyroid cancer in children and families in Chernobyl. I know a lot about thyroid cancer because I have thyroid cancer and after studying the disease I noticed that one of the causes was exposure to nuclear reactors, nuclear waste or nuclear radiation.
Thyroid cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the world, aside from skin cancer, although both have a growth rate of about 5% per year.
What is the cost of helping survivors of this disease? Once the thyroid has been removed, people will need to take certain types of drugs for the rest of their life. The cost of the drugs, in a country where there may not be adequate health care or pharmacare, could be enormous. Therefore, it is absurd that the bill would limit the liability of a nuclear accident to only $650 million. It costs so much more, not only for each individual, but also to repair all the damage that is inflicted by a nuclear accident.
The liability for a nuclear accident in U.S. is $10 billion. The Canadian amount of $650 million is at the bottom of the heap according to the international standard. Yes, Canada is well known to be at the bottom of the heap with regard to the international standard, not only on nuclear liability but also with regard to nuclear waste. Nuclear waste lasts for thousands and thousands of years. It is a good comparison to look at something that lasts for that length of time versus something that is so much about our future, our children.
The children of Canada are our first concern because they are our future. Canada is not only at the bottom of the heap in terms of nuclear liability and the $650 million limit if this bill passes, but we are in fact putting our children, in terms of our investment in a national child care program, also at the bottom of the OECD heap.
In terms of liability, in Germany there is no limit. Not only Germany but a lot of European countries are moving more toward unlimited liability limits. As the world is going in one direction, Canada is going backwards as usual by saying that we are going to cap the liability at $650 million. Also, no private insurance would be made available.
That actually says to a lot of the cities and areas around nuclear plants that they are only worth $650 million. If there is a nuclear accident, it would cost billions of dollars in damage, personal injury and death, so who would pay? Let me answer that question in a minute, because this is the critical situation. If it is not the corporation that is paying, who is paying?
That is why the New Democrats, at the committee and at report stage, moved 35 amendments. We took the Liberal Party at its word. In the House of Commons in October of last year, the Liberal critic said:
--this is a very important bill and I will be recommending to my caucus and my leader that we support it and send it to committee. In committee we will be doing our job as official opposition listening to stakeholders and experts, and we will review the bill in detail.
However, as usual, the Liberals are missing in action. They try to say that they really are worried about the nuclear industry, but they are not sure whether they are saying yes to nuclear industry expansion. They were saying that maybe the liability was too low, maybe they would amend this, and maybe they would study it.
After all of that discussion, what did they do? They did not bring in any amendments whatsoever. We are not surprised, are we? The Bloc did bring in a few amendments, which were nothing that would fundamentally alter the bill, but it did not matter, because the amendments from the Bloc and the New Democratic Party were defeated. Why? Because the Liberals did not support any of them, even though they said publicly that they were extremely concerned about nuclear safety.
As members may recall, when there was a shutdown at AECL, the Liberals were saying that safety is really important. They said that we must invest in safety. As for the history of AECL, for example, there was hardly any investment in the last 15 years. What the Conservative Party is doing right now, after firing Ms. Keen because she said that perhaps it was not very safe, is to sell AECL and privatize it.
I notice that the Conservatives have not met an issue that they do not want to privatize. They are privatizing the airline industry safety measures in Bill , which we are debating. It is about privatizing airline safety so that the airlines would police themselves. The Conservatives are saying not to worry, to let them do their own thing.
On immigration, it is the same thing. They are saying to privatize it, to give the contracts to the visa office and let those private companies deal with it.
It is the same thing here in Bill . If there is a problem, the government is saying, we will let the taxpayers pay for it. But $650 million is not enough. It will take many billions of dollars. Who is going to carry the costs of cleanups?
Who is going to carry the cost of cleaning up of the Great Lakes if Pickering has some trouble? Who is going to clean up the environment? Who is going to deal with the people who develop ill health? It will be the taxpayers, not the industry. The government does not worry about taxpayers. It will let the industry do its own thing. In fact, this legislation is a big yes to the nuclear industry.
I note that the Conservatives want to sign on to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and turn Canada into a nuclear waste dump for those who do not have space for nuclear waste. Canada is a big country. Maybe they can put some of it here, because after all, if there are any problems, the liability would be capped at only $650 million. Do not worry about it, that is the attitude, and do come to Canada, even though we know there is no long term nuclear waste storage solution in the world.
For example, let us look at cleanups. There are huge and expensive cleanups. Port Hope is stuck with a huge number of problems that it has to clean up. The Northwest Territories is another example.
Nuclear waste remains deadly even after thousands and thousands of years. The bill in front of us is saying that the government will not have to worry about this waste, that taxpayers can handle it. That is extremely unfortunate. Why? Because many of the municipalities in southern Ontario are saying no to this kind of reckless behaviour.
Let me give the House an example. Twenty years ago, Guelph had a record of being one of the best cities in terms of dealing with waste management. Now, with the new mayor, the entire city is focusing on how to have zero waste. Guelph wants a big reduction in the amount of waste.
Last weekend, a conference was held in Niagara Falls. It was put together by the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition. The coalition is looking at a situation in which companies that have waste take on the responsibility for that waste. For example, Interface is a big carpet company. If someone buys a new carpet from Interface, it takes the old one back.
We are seeing a trend toward this, which is that people and companies must take care of their products, whether it is the waste or the packaging. That is the direction the world is taking. We should do the same thing with nuclear waste.
If there is a nuclear installation, we want make sure that its waste is taken care of and that if there is an accident, the liability limit is unlimited, or at least to a standard that is extremely high, in the billions of dollars, for example, not this measly $650 million in Bill .
That is why I am astounded that the Liberals and the Bloc will not do everything they can to block this bill. This bill really limits the civil liability and compensation for damage in the case of a nuclear accident. We know there has been a series of accidents in the past. I have a long list of them. How can it be possible that on the last day of this sitting of the House of Commons we get no debate but only complete silence from both the official opposition and the Bloc?
Are they not worried about their residents, their voters, discovering that in the last few sitting days of the House of Commons before the summer break we allowed a bill of this nature to pass? How can we possibly do that?
Do we think that people in southern Ontario, where there are big nuclear plants, are not worried that if there are even more nuclear reactors being built the company liability would be only $650 million? What is the worth of a city? Let us look at Guelph. What is the worth of the Great Lakes? What is the worth of Aurora, right beside Guelph? I went to the University of Guelph for a short period of time. There is the city and the zoo and a great number of places. In Pickering, it is the same thing.
How can we say that if there is an accident it would cost $650 million and we could repair everything that is damaged? Just for the lake itself, cleaning up the water would cost $650 million, never mind the health damages and contamination of all the buildings in the area.
Let me tell members about some of the nuclear leaks. I will start with recent ones. In Tennessee in March 2006, 35 litres of a highly enriched uranium solution leaked during a transfer into a lab at the Nuclear Fuel Services plant in Erwin. What happened? The incident caused a seven month shutdown and required a public hearing on the licensing of the plant.
A company wanting to build a new plant and seeing a liability of only $650 million perhaps might think that it could skip a few safety standards. Maybe it would not do everything that it should to ensure that it has the safest nuclear facility because, after all, the liability is only $650 million.
Further, by the way, the bill also says that a person would have to take action within three years of becoming aware of damage, with an absolute limitation of 10 years after an incident. In the case of bodily injury, the limit is 30 years.
However, we know, and I know personally, that cancers and genetic mutations, et cetera, will not appear for at least 20 years following exposure. That is why in Chernobyl for the first 10 to 15 years it was not very obvious. It was only 20 to 30 years later that we began to see the huge rates of thyroid cancer, other cancers and genetic mutations in the future generations, with the children suffering.
By that time, according to this bill, it would be too late. No one could sue or do anything because of the time limit.
The bill also restricts liability to Canadian incidents except when there is an agreement in place with another country and the operators are Canadian. What happens if the operators are not Canadian? They could be German, Chinese or American. Does it mean that the operators would not be liable? That is outrageous. How can we possibly allow this bill to pass?
I have at least 14 pages of nuclear accidents since 1945. There are hundreds of them, and each of them has had serious implications. Let me list another one. In 2005, in Illinois--
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak in opposition to Bill .
As the House has heard from other members of the NDP today, we are very concerned about the bill. We are on the second to last day of Parliament and the bill has been around for a while. Extensive work has been done in the committee. The NDP brought forward 35 amendments to try to make some improvements to it because we felt it was so significantly flawed. Unfortunately, we did not have the support of other parties for those amendments, so here we are.
Yes, in truth, we in the NDP are trying to stop the bill. We do not think it should go through. I am certainly going to put forward my two cents' worth today.
I am from Vancouver East, British Columbia. People in B.C. have always lived in an environment with the potential of nuclear accidents because to the south of us there are nuclear facilities. There is the Hanford facility in Washington State, which has been the site of serious accidents in the past. I know people in communities in southern British Columbia live with much concern about their future and the future of their children because of the nuclear industry and what happens when there is an accident.
Nobody wants an accident to happen and we need to have the maximum number of precautions to ensure none do. However, the bill before us deals with the question after the fact. What happens if there is an accident and what is the liability?
First, members of the NDP agree 100% that the current legislation, which goes back to the 1970s, is terribly inadequate. It set a liability limit of $75 million, which in today's terms would be nickels and dimes in liability for the nuclear industry. The new bill sets the liability limit at $650 million.
Some may look at that and say that it is a big improvement and suggest that we should go for it. However, when we scratch the surface of the bill and start to examine it in terms of international law and context, the limits contained in the bill on a nuclear operator of $650 million is at the bottom of the international average. To me that immediately raises questions. Why would we place ourselves at the bottom of an international average? Also, why is this bill being put forward at this point?
We have heard concerns from communities, environmentalists and people who are opposed to and worried about the nuclear industry. They say that the bill has more to do with the Conservative government's plan to sell off Canada's nuclear industry and then set up an insurance scheme, and it knows the current act and scheme is completely inadequate, that takes the liability away from operators and puts it in the public purse.
By setting the cap at $650 million, we know there is a provision where a special tribunal could be set up by the and if further funds were required, they would come out of the public purse. This basically means that a nuclear operator would have to pay out a maximum of $650 million and the public would be on the hook for millions and possibly billions of dollars in the case of an accident.
Right off the top, the numbers do not work. If we are going to amend the act, and it should be amended, then let us do it properly. Let us ensure we set the liability at a level that is within the context of what happens in the international community.
We are also very concerned that Canada is signing on to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and that this could turn Canada into a nuclear waste dump. There could be all kinds of contamination as a result of that as well. Some of my colleagues today, the members for , and , have spoken about what we see as the long term impact and effects of this bill. Let it be said that the $650 million is very inadequate.
We worked very diligently in committee to seek amendments to the bill. We put forward over 35 amendments to try to improve the bill, the accountability, the discretion of the minister, the level of liability and so on. It is a surprise to me that those amendments failed and here we are today with the bill at third and final reading.
When we look at the history of the nuclear industry globally, but certainly in North America, a long record of incidents have taken place. My colleague from referred to a list of nuclear accidents that we have been referencing.
When we read that list, which is 14 pages long, it is pretty scary to know these incidents have taken place with a fair amount of regularity over the decades, beginning August 21, 1945, at the beginning of the nuclear age.
It was in Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico, U.S.A., where a criticality accident with a plutonium metal assembly happened. Harry Daghlian was hand stacking tungsten carbide brakes around a plutonium metal assembly. The plutonium assembly compromised two hemispheres with a total mass of 6.2 kilograms, just short of bare critical mass. While moving a final brick, the experimenter noticed from neutron counters that the final brick would make the assembly supercritical. At this point, he accidentally dropped the brick onto the pile, providing sufficient neutron reflection to result in a supercritical power excursion. The experimenter quickly removed the final brick and disassembled the assembly. He sustained a dose of 510 rem and died 28 days later.
I do not know all the science behind it, but it seems to me it is important to reflect on these things because that happened in our modern day age. This is in the era of the beginning of the nuclear age in our world and we can see that these accidents have taken place, beginning in August 1945. Some of them are seared in our brains as we have watched images on television, particularly Chernobyl. I am reading from the list.
Even in Chalk River on May 24, 1958, there was fuel damage. Due to inadequate cooling, a damaged uranium fuel rod caught fire and was torn in two as it was being removed from the core at the reactor. The fire was extinguished, but not before radioactive combustion products contaminated the interior of the reactor building and, to a lesser degree, an area surrounding the lab site. Over 600 people were employed in the cleanup.
There was an incident at Hanford Works in Hanford, Washington on April 7, 1962. This is the one I am more familiar with, not that I was there but because Hanford is very close to Vancouver. It is something that peace and anti-nuclear movements in British Columbia have watched for a very long time because millions of litres of contaminants are stored in Hanford.
It is a vast area in Washington state. It is surrounded by security and fences. It is obviously not publicly accessible. There is an international boundary, the 49th parallel, but when it comes to a disaster, that boundary does not mean anything. These contaminants can get into the groundwater, wells, rivers and the air, so these are a very serious situations.
In April 1962 there was a criticality incident with plutonium solution. An accident at a plutonium processing plant resulted in a criticality incident. Plutonium solution was spilled on the floor of a solvent extraction hood. Improper operation of valves allowed a mixture of plutonium solutions in a tank that became supercritical, prompting criticality alarms to sound and the subsequent evacuation of the building.
Exact details of the accident could not be reconstructed. The excursion continued at lower power levels for 37.5 hours, during which a remotely controlled robot was used to check conditions and operate valves. Criticality was probably terminated by a precipitation of plutonium in the tank to a non-critical state. Three people had significant radiation exposures.
The list goes on and on.
Probably the most infamous one, and one that had global proportions, was on April 25, 1986, the complete meltdown at Chernobyl. This involved a mishandled reactor safety test, which led to an uncontrolled power excursion causing a severe steam explosion, meltdown and release of radioactive material at the Chernobyl nuclear plant approximately 100 kilometres northeast of Kiev. Approximately 50 fatalities resulted from the accident and in the immediate aftermath, most of those being the cleanup personnel. In addition, nine fatal cases of thyroid cancer in children were attributed to the accident.
The explosion and combustion of the graphite reactor core spread radioactive material over much of Europe. I am sure like many people, I remember the images of that accident and the fear the people felt. One hundred thousand people were evacuated from the areas immediately surrounding Chernobyl, in addition to 300,000 from the areas of heavy fallout in the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
An exclusion zone was created surrounding the site, encompassing approximately 1,000 miles, or 3,000 kilometres. It has been deemed off limits for human habitation for an indefinite period. I know there have been documentaries about what happened at Chernobyl by people who have gone back and filmed this vast area, which is now, in effect, a dead zone where human habitation cannot take place.
These are very serious matters and a bill like this gives us cause for reflection about the nuclear industry in Canada. The bill is setting the stage for expansion in Canada. In fact, I asked my colleague from earlier, because he is our energy critic and he is very knowledgeable on this issue, far more knowledgeable than me, what he thought about the bill in terms of what it meant for the future. He pointed out that Bill was really the tip of the iceberg.
We know nuclear energy is being looked at as a solution to greenhouse gas for producing energy sources. He informed the House of the situation at the Peace River nuclear plant being contemplated, with transmission capacity that could go to Montana. Again, we see a pattern of decision-making and privatization that is linking us with the enormous energy needs in the United States.
These issues are linked. What begins as a bill in terms of what appears to be a question of liability is linked to a much larger question as to where the government plans to take us in the nuclear industry and the kinds of expansion plans contemplated.
People in my riding are very concerned about that. People feel adequate safeguards are not in place today. We have had the whole debate in the House about what happened at Chalk River with the shutdown of the reactor and the crisis it created for medical isotopes. We saw the debacle that took place with the Conservative government when it fired the head of the organization. This is all part of a greater scheme of a privatization and a sell-off of these nuclear resources to put it in private hands.
On the one hand, we have to debate that. We have to examine that from a public policy perspective. On the other hand, we have a responsibility, as parliamentarians, to ensure the legal framework is put in place, whether we talk about public policy or private operations, and that the liability will be adequate.
I hope that I have provided information today to alert people to the fact that the bill really does not go far enough. It is something that will pass, we presume, unless we can hold it up and that is what we are going to try to do. I think, as we now move into new decades of nuclear expansion, it makes one wonder if we will be again back at the drawing board if we do have a significant incident in this country.
God forbid that that ever happens, but if it does happen, will the provisions in this bill have the capacity to deal with the claims that would result when people in a local community, businesses, livelihoods, people's health and children's health are impacted by such an accident?
It is interesting to note that in the U.S. the liability is $10 billion. That is actually shared among the plants. It is a joint effort. That is more than 10 times higher than what we are talking about in this country. Again, we have to question why has the limit been set at $650 million. It just seems to be woefully inadequate.
We would like to see the bill not move forward, not pass. We would like to see further consideration on this question of liability. We would like to see discussion and some really clear plans from the federal Conservative government as to exactly what its intentions are with the nuclear industry here in Canada.
While we would certainly agree that the current bill has to be changed because the liability is so low, we do not think this particular bill will do the job. It needs to be contained within a much broader policy debate about the nuclear industry. The paramount question in that debate and in any legislation that comes forward is the public interest.
It is not the interest of the nuclear industry. It is not the interests of the people who want to just suck up more and more energy and more and more capacity for energy, it is not the interests of U.S. multinational corporations who might be looking to Canada as a place where they want to do business. The primary concern is public health, the public interest, and the interests for future generations.
In that regard, the bill seems to be very short-sighted. I want to thank my colleagues, the member for and the member for , who have been our two primary critics. They worked really hard on this bill. They went through it, every clause. They figured out that it was very limited and it was something that we could not support. At committee, they went to bat and put in a number of amendments. It was very surprising that those amendments were defeated by the government and by the other parties.
I know the Bloc put a few amendments and we certainly appreciate that. However, at the end of the day, the bill has not been changed. So we move forward now with a bill that is very limited.
Therefore, we will be speaking on this and we will be pointing out these deficiencies. We want to draw people's attention to the fact that the bill is now at this very critical stage. We are going to certainly do what we can to make sure that it does not pass, not because we do not want to see a liability set but because we want to make sure that it is being done in a proper way. That it is going to be done in a way that protects people so that if there is an incident, an accident, that people will actually have the capability to make a claim and receive some sort of compensation. It will not be at the discretion of a tribunal that the minister sets up, but a due process and a fund will be created which will protect people. Surely, that is the most important thing that we are considering here today.
I urge my colleagues to consider those concerns that we have. I am very proud of the fact that we have taken the time to look at the bill and to come to the conclusions that we have based on what we believe to be in the public interest of Canadians, and that is why we will be opposing the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for this opportunity to continue on the same vein as my colleague from with our concerns and reservations about Bill , the nuclear liability and compensation act.
I actually asked for permission to join in this debate. I came sprinting to the Commons from my office in West Block hoping for the opportunity to rise and speak to this bill. I noticed there was another debate going on the last time I tuned in on my television and that seems to have collapsed. When this bill came on, I said to myself, “Self, this is a bill that you want to be involved in. You want to be on the record”.
I said that to myself, partly because one of the most important books to come across my desk in recent memory is one that a colleague sent to me. It is written by Dr. Helen Caldicott, a name that many of us remember well, a well-respected, internationally acclaimed scientist. The title of her book is, Nuclear Power is not the Answer.
Dr. Caldicott felt compelled to write this book because, as the world grapples with the obvious risks to the environment by greenhouse gas emissions, it is tempting, seductive almost, to revisit nuclear power as perhaps the source of energy that might not contribute to global warming. In the temptation to be lured in that direction, we fear, and she fears in her book, the world is overlooking the potential risk and the gaps in the technology that cannot give assurance to the world's citizens that this is the right way to go.
We in the NDP were alarmed in that sense when Bill was introduced. We spoke against it immediately, saying that the last thing we want to do at this point in time, when the world is being attracted to revisit nuclear energy as a viable option, is in any way diminish, undermine or deregulate the safety regime associated with the nuclear energy system as we know it. It is a shocking idea. As I said, I want to build off the comments of my colleague from . It seems to be a worrisome motif, a hallmark almost of the corporate sector today, that it is trying to further deregulate and undermine the environmental standards and reviews that are necessary.
As the world becomes more aware, we become more insistent on developers and industries to be more compliant and to be more sensitive to environmental issues. That is a nuisance to them. They have been forced by the general public to go in a direction they do not want to go. The only way they can maintain the status quo or even diminish the status quo in terms of safety is by regulation. Bill , which was before the House earlier this week, is along the same vein. It would dismantle or certainly diminish a safety regime.
I asked a page to go to the Library of Parliament, that wonderful resource, and bring me a copy of Dr. Helen Caldicott's book, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer. To her credit she found it in jig time. I strongly recommend it to all of my colleagues in the House of Commons, in the context of debating this bill. They should pick up this book and go through some of the important points that this internationally well-respected scientist cautions us about. I am just going to read some of the titles of the chapters. I am not going to read from the book at any great length.
Dr. Caldicott goes through the whole costing of nuclear energy. As seductive as nuclear energy is, even on the face value, it is extremely expensive. She spends one chapter chronicling the whole cost of nuclear energy when we contemplate the insurance, never mind the cost of cleanup if there was in fact, God forbid, an accident, and the pollution, et cetera. I will come back to Dr. Caldicott in a minute.
I think we are better than this. I think we are better than expanding our nuclear system in the context of meeting our energy demands and needs. Let me explain what I mean by that.
I used to be the head of the carpenters union, the head of the building trades union in the province of Manitoba. The government of Manitoba lost a major power deal with the province of Ontario. The hydroelectric power sale somehow fell apart which resulted in the cancellation of a hydroelectric dam. That would have employed 1,500 of my members for five years. I was running the carpenters union at the time. It was devastating. It forced us to take stock, to do some research as to how we might cope with the loss of the job creation opportunities associated with building a hydro generating station.
I commissioned some research. We published a report called, “A Brighter Future--Job Creation through Energy Conservation”. We compared the job creation opportunities in a large megaproject such as the Darlington nuclear power station, which it has just been announced they intend to double in size. Let me backtrack. The original bill for Darlington was going to be $4 billion. By the time the dust settled, it was turned on and it generated its first unit of energy, the bill was $15 billion and I do not think they have finished spending yet.
What we learned in the comprehensive study, and I raise this in the context of Bill , is that demand side management of our precious energy resources is far smarter than the supply side management in a number of significant ways.
A unit of energy harvested from the existing system by energy conservation measures is indistinguishable from a unit of energy produced at a generating station, except for a number of key important things. First, it is available at one-third the cost. The unit of energy that we harvested from the existing system by eliminating waste and by energy conservation measures is available at one-third the cost of generating a new unit of energy at a hydroelectric dam or nuclear power station.
The second great advantage is that the new unit of energy is online and available immediately. In other words, the second we turn off a light switch in a room, that unit of energy conserved is available to be used at the house next door or to be sold offshore internationally. We sell a lot of power from Manitoba to Minnesota and the states directly south of us.
If we had an east-west grid for electricity, we could in fact close down every coal-fired plant in Ontario by selling them clean hydroelectricity from Manitoba. I think most Ontarians would be happier to get cheap clean power from Manitoba instead of expensive dirty power from coal-fired generating stations or, God forbid, risky electricity from nuclear power stations.
Another advantage between demand side management units of energy, or units of energy harvested from the existing system and ones produced at a generation station, is the lag time where one does not have to borrow money to do it. In fact, many energy retrofits can be done through a process where the upfront cost is paid for, free of charge to the property owner, and the financier is paid back out of the energy savings over the next three, five or seven years. That is a great system. It is sweeping the Building Owners and Managers Association, those property owners that own skyscrapers and large institutional, commercial and industrial buildings because their energy costs are going through the ceiling. They can have off balance sheet financing to renovate and energy retrofit those buildings for which they do not pay a single penny. They pay it out of the energy savings over the next three to five years until that renovation is complete.
The federal government would be a perfect place for that. You would be surprised to learn, Mr. Speaker, or maybe you would not be surprised to learn because, being in charge of the parliamentary precinct, you do supervise a great number of publicly owned buildings, there are 68,000 federally owned buildings in Canada, many of which were built during a period of time when we were wasteful in our design and usage of energy. They are energy hogs, really. They are wasteful. There have been some legitimate efforts to try to upgrade and modernize those buildings to make them less wasteful, but there has never been a comprehensive plan to deal with a significant number of these buildings.
Imagine what a demonstration project that would be, if the federal government of the day actually engaged in energy retrofitting thousands of these buildings that are owned by the-
That is right, Mr. Speaker. I think you will agree that patience is a virtue. If the member would be more patient, he would see me developing this line of reasoning, hopefully coming to the logical conclusion that we should vote against Bill . It is a circuitous route, I will confess.
I was trying to illustrate that Bill actually strips away some of the safety regime associated with nuclear energy. We believe that is harmful. We believe that Canada is better than this.
We do not need to be dealing with Bill at all, because we have alternatives. We have the technology. We have the luxury of being a wealthy developed nation. We should be leading the world in alternative energy, not embracing an outdated technology.
I put it to the House that nuclear power is an outdated technology. It was a detour on the road to a sustainable world and it took us in a direction that we will regret as a people, not just as a nation.
A number of bad ideas are associated with trying to meet our energy demands and a number of bad ideas are associated with trying to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. One of them, I believe, is the expansion of nuclear energy.
Another one is what was just tabled today by the Liberal Party of Canada, this carbon tax notion, which is a distinctly bad idea. When we are talking about energy, we would be negligent if we did not speak about the consequences of production of energy, and that is the greenhouse gases that we now know are strangling our planet.
I was putting forward the notion that we should be seized of the issue of the demand side management of our energy resources more than we are seized of the issue of the supply side management of our energy resources. Nuclear power is not the answer.
Do not take it from me, I say for members, but take it from Dr. Helen Caldicott, one of the world's leading authorities on the general health of the world and the impact of technological advances. There is a fallacious and misleading advertising campaign put forward by the nuclear energy industry.
I have one advertisement with me here that is being used by the nuclear power industry in trying to convince Canadians and people around the world that it is the answer to harmful greenhouse gas emissions. It tries to convince us that if we are worried about greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide, we should “go nuke” or go nuclear.
What is really worrisome is when industries like this use children to try to convince people that all is well and all is safe for our next generation. As for this particular advertisement, I will not read from it. I am not using it as a prop so much as I am to explain.
There are three pictures, one of very happy children in bathing suits jumping into a lake and clearly enjoying themselves. It is probably a clean lake that they are swimming in. Another is a picture of group of children lying on the grass, which presumably is pesticide free and free of any kind of nuclear contamination. They are clearly enjoying playing some kind of a video game, I presume, on their laptop. The other one is the affirmative action part. Two children of colour are playing on an old tire hung by a rope from a tree. They are swinging back and forth on that tire. They are clearly enjoying themselves and living a carefree life in the shadow of the nuclear power plant in the distant horizon.
The message is that these children are not affected by the effluent from that nuclear power plant, which dominates the horizon of the neighbourhood they live in. They still play in the lakes, so the water is fresh. They still lie on the grass, so the grass has not mutated in any form. Presumably the fish in the lake do not have three eyes like Blinky in the Homer Simpson show. The children swinging from the swing are not concerned about the quality of the air they are breathing as they play so adventurously.
This advertisement makes the point that already in America one in every five homes and businesses is electrified by nuclear energy. That worries me, because when I was young, the number was not nearly that high. In fact, it is within my lifetime in the post-war era that nuclear energy has expanded and spread and is seeking to gain mainstream acceptance by the population. The industry has sought, in a very deliberate public relations marketing attempt, to convince the world that there is absolutely nothing wrong, that nothing can happen. “Trust us,” it says.
A lot of these plants are privately owned. Not all nuclear power plants are operated by states. A lot of these laboratories that have the nuclear accidents are privately owned.
I have a list here of some of the hiccups that have occurred on the road to a nuclear future. It is quite an extensive list. I do not think time will permit me to share all of these hiccups with members, but they are not limited to underdeveloped nations that do not have the technology to deal with or supervise the operation of nuclear power plants.
There was a partial core meltdown in Monroe, Michigan. The sodium cooling system malfunction caused a partial meltdown on October 5, 1966. My parents were marching around outside nuclear power plants saying “no nukes” in 1966. They had that written on signs. At the time, they were worried that nuclear energy was leading to nuclear warfare.
In Wood River, Rhode Island, there was a critical accident with the handling of uranium solution. The tank containing 93% uranium-235 was being agitated by a stirrer. The worker, intending to add a bottle of trichloroethane to remove organics, erroneously added a bottle of uranium solution to the tank.
Accidents happen, as we know. In my field, we might chop off a finger when an accident happens, and it is a tragedy. When we are dealing with a nuclear power station, we can cause serious problems for the planet.
In Galloway, Scotland, there was a partial core meltdown when graphite debris partially blocked a fuel channel, causing the fuel element to melt.
These are fairly innocent, innocuous things. There is no great oversight involved here. There are finely tuned, technical things that can happen. If Bill in any way diminishes the safety enforcement or regime associated with the nuclear industry, we are against it.
Based on this pile of statistics alone, this should be enough to compel most Canadians to say, “We do not want to go down this road if that is where it is leading”.
At the Mayak Enterprise in Russia, there was a criticality accident with plutonium solution. In Obninsk, Russia, there was a terrible radiation accident at a nuclear power plant involving the manipulation of the fuel rods.
The potential for accidents is overwhelming at almost every step of the process, never mind the storage. I live in Manitoba where there is now the bright idea that spent nuclear rods will be stored in a deep underground storage plant in and around the eastern part of the province, in the deep granite of the Precambrian Shield.
The industry really does not have a satisfactory way of or idea about how to store spent power rods, which still have enormously long half-lives, other than to keep them in great swimming pools full of water. We cannot find a swimming pool in the inner city of Winnipeg for children to swim in, yet the countryside is littered with Olympic-sized swimming pools full of spent nuclear power rods.
Again, these accidents do not always occur just in underdeveloped nations that do not have the technology to supervise nuclear facilities properly. The Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois had a critical accident with uranium particles in plastic. It turned out that was a bad idea, because the doses to four individuals were 136 rads. That level of exposure is fatal. Workers in the nuclear industry were being deceived as to the hazard.
I am no stranger to that. It makes me furious when industries that know full well certain things are hazardous do not inform their employees. I worked in the asbestos industry for many years. They were lying to us about the health hazards of asbestos then, just as they are lying to us today about the health hazards of asbestos. But the asbestos cartel is so powerful that it has even the Conservative Government of Canada kowtowing to it today. Canada is still the second largest exporter of asbestos in the world, even though we now know full well that asbestos is a killer and there is no safe level of asbestos anywhere--
Mr. Speaker, I was quite innocently trying to illustrate that a lot of industries and the corporate sector are negligent in warning workers in their industry about the potential hazards, the nuclear industry being one of them.
I was using the asbestos industry as another example of how the asbestos industry and the nuclear industry have successfully duped the general public into believing that their product and their industry are safer than they really are. Let me put it that way.
They do so, as I illustrated earlier, by spending hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing and PR campaigns to try to convince the public that there is really nothing to be afraid of and that we can dismantle our safety regime, such as Bill does, because, they say, “trust us” and they will take care of us.
This book by Dr. Helen Caldicott should be mandatory reading for anyone who intends to vote on Bill C-5. I urge everyone to read this book tonight, tomorrow or whenever they can before they vote on Bill C-5. I guarantee that it will turn people around on a dime. If they intended to support this bill, they will not any more after they read the cautionary tale associated with this book. Bill is designed to protect corporations more than citizens.
I know I am getting short on time, so I am coming to a conclusion. The point I was making about demand side management is that Canada is better than reverting to nuclear as a solution to our greenhouse gas emissions problems. We are smarter than that. We have the technology.
We should be leading the world in demand side management measures. We should be a centre of excellence for all the world to see in energy retrofitting, doing our public buildings first, our institutional buildings second, our private buildings third, and then every home in the country.
I remember the residents of a small town, Espanola, Ontario, who made up their minds about this when the member for was the premier of Ontario in the early 1990s. They decided to see how far they could go. They decided to see how much energy they could save if they energy retrofitted, even to a small degree, every home, business, gas station, hospital and school in all of Espanola, Ontario.
The results were staggering. Even without comprehensive retrofitting, even with minor retrofitting, they harvested units of energy out of Espanola that they sold to the rest of the province, and they precluded the need for building any more nuclear power plants for quite some time.
If only we would expand that reasoning across the whole province. We have not even scratched the surface in harvesting units of energy out of the existing system. It is like mining for gold. Energy is gold these days. There is gold going up the smokestacks or leaking out of the leaky windows of every building in the country.
I began my speech by saying that a unit of energy harvested out of the existing system by demand side management measures is indistinguishable from a unit of energy produced at a generating station, except for a number of important differences.
First, it is available at one-third the cost.
Second, it is online and available for resale immediately. The moment we turn off that light switch in a room, that unit of energy is available for the light switch next door to be turned on.
Third, it precludes the need to borrow billions of dollars to build a generating station.
Fourth, it creates seven times the person-years of employment. If we are concerned about employing another generation as our manufacturing sector goes down the tubes and every job in the country is given to China, this give us employment as we energy retrofit our building stock. We can develop a technology and an expertise that we can export around the world. We will become known as champions of energy retrofit technology and energy conservation measures. That is an export technology I can be proud of.
I do not approve of giving loans so that countries can buy CANDU reactors from us, set up CANDU reactors in their countries and create bombs. We created the nuclear risk between India and Pakistan because we gave them both nuclear capabilities. We paid for it with loans that were never repaid. We did the same in Romania.
We are so desperate to sell our bloody reactors that we give countries the money to buy the reactors from us and we do not even ask them to repay the loans. I would rather be exporting energy retrofit technology. The best and most energy efficient windows in the world should come from Canada. The best energy efficient furnaces should come from Canada.
We should be proud to lead the world in this because we have the intelligence, the technology and the educational background. If we only had the political will.
It makes me want to cry when the only idea that we see debated in this country on energy and greenhouse gas emissions is a carbon tax on home heating fuel that will make some poor senior citizen living in northern Canada, who is already paying $800 a month for home heating fuel, pay more. However, the guy who drives a Hummer will not pay any penalty. He will enjoy the tax cut that is supposed to come from this poor little old lady who is paying astronomical home heating bills.
If that is the level of debate we are having, we are wasting our time, our God given talent and the gift of technology in this country. We are completely blowing it in terms of an opportunity to develop the technology of energy retrofitting and demand-side management.
Before the member for interrupted me, I was saying that 68,000 buildings in this country are owned by the federal government. What a brilliant place to start as a demonstration project, first to show the private sector and then to show the world how it can be done. Copenhagen has just declared that it will be the most energy efficient city in the world in the next 10 years and it has set about a cooperative public-private partnership to make that so.
We could do that on a national scale if there was any kind of vision. If we had a national dream to become that country, we would be that country. Instead, we are tinkering with rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic by adding a carbon tax in all the wrong places. It is a complete diversion that will waste the time, energy and intellectual capacity of the nation when that energy and capacity should be applied to something transformative and meaningful as we wean ourselves off dirty energy and embrace clean energy.
Yes, hydroelectricity is good and I am proud that the province of Manitoba will meet its Kyoto targets. It already is because of all the hydroelectricity it produces. I wish the was here. If it could sell that clean hydroelectricity east-west instead of just north-south, it could help Ontario wean itself off of its dirty energy and nuclear energy. Saskatchewan would benefit enormously, God bless it. However, there are three or four important key elements that need to fall into place before we can go down that road.
As we contemplate nuclear energy as an alternative, we would be negligent and irresponsible if we ignored the actual empirical evidence associated with the use of nuclear, such as in Kiev, Ukraine on February 4, 1970. We do not hear about these things in the national news, partly because, I would not call it a conspiracy, there is an unwillingness to share all of the facts. We have the Voronezh nuclear power plant in Russia in 1971. Bhopal is another liability and the costs associated with cleaning it up.
Bill would limit that liability. We are almost doing the industry's dirty work for it. Rather than the industry ensuring it does not happen any more, we are limiting its liability to $650 million. That does not pay for the cleanup of a great deal of contamination in a major nuclear incident. What if we had something on the scale of Bhopal, my colleague from asks. There was a chemical spill at that time and 3,000 people were killed and 10,000 people were affected.
We could have thousands of people affected by a nuclear incident and the total liability would be $650 million. I say that one individual being affected for a lifetime could be eligible for a settlement of millions of dollars. This liability would only pay for perhaps a couple of hundred people. It is wrong-headed and it should be defeated.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from quite rightly points out that it is the absence of a cohesive plan, an overall central strategy that is worrisome, because often these piecemeal bits and pieces are at the whim or the will of an aggressive corporate lobby. They are individual incidents but they create a motif or a theme.
We recently dealt with Bill where the government is dismantling the safety associated with the air transportation system. Now we are dealing with the nuclear industry where the government is dismantling the safety provisions in the nuclear industry. I would suggest that not one person in this House should vote on this bill until they have read Dr. Helen Caldicott's book, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. I implore members to get the book out of the library and read it. I will put it back today because I have read it.
I want to point out that the nuclear safety record in the world when compiled is a staggering and horrifying list. We have the explosion and combustion of the graphite reactor core in Pripyat, Ukraine that spread radioactive material over much of Europe. That was not in 1956 at the advent of the nuclear age. That was in 1986. Some 300,000 people had to be evacuated from the fallout areas.
We would think that would have ground the nuclear industry to a halt and that it would have regrouped to ensure that could never, ever happen again. However, in 1989, in Greifswald, Germany, fuel damage operators disabled three of the six cooling pumps. However, instead of the automatic shutdown, the fourth pump failed causing excessive heating which damaged and exposed 10 fuel rods. Workers again were hurt.
Earlier that year, at Hamm/Uentrop power station in Germany, fuel damaged spherical fuel pebbles became lodged in a pipe used to deliver fuel elements.
The technology is so complex that every step of the way is fraught with potential failures. I am a tradesman. I am a carpenter by nature and I have been in installations of hydroelectric dams. I have never worked on a nuclear power plant but I know the complexity associated with generating energy and the room for failure in a hydroelectric dam when it stops producing energy for a while.
The possibility for failure in an incident associated with a nuclear power plant is that it can devastate whole communities, whole regions and contaminate them for generations to come. However, the government is trying to pass a bill today that would put the maximum liability on any nuclear company that has this kind of a nuclear incident, for Monty Burns, $650 million, which is peanuts. A couple of hundred people alone who were affected by some of these accidents would easily burn that up in the liability lawsuits that are bound to follow.
Somewhere out there Homer Simpson is running a nuclear power plant. Somewhere out there Monty Burns is lobbying the Conservative Government of Canada today to ensure the safety regulations are not too onerous because “How am I supposed to make a buck cranking out nuclear energy if you make me pay for my mistakes?”.
I put it to the government that if we are looking to nuclear power to meet our energy needs in the coming decades, we are not trying hard enough. In fact, we have ignored the obvious and we have embraced the outdated technology.
The post-war era was tragic in many respects. The petrochemical industry, the asbestos industry and the nuclear industry ran amok. We are just beginning to realize that we have soiled our own nest to the point where we can hardly live here any more if we do not change our ways.
We do not want to see the Darlington nuclear power plant doubled in size. We want to see it shut down. We want to see clean energy from demand-side management, from energy retrofitting, from solar and wind energy. We do not want to see the industry contemplating the next generation of nuclear power.
Some of us believe it was a mistake. We believe that a government with some vision and leadership would have done more than expand or compound the problem. We also believe that an opposition party with some leadership would come up with something better than the carbon tax that it is flogging today, because it will not tax the guy who drives the Hummer. The people who are trying to heat their home in the western Arctic at $800 a month for home heating fuel will to pay the carbon tax. The guy driving the Hummer will pay nothing because it is excluded.
The government will take money from the person in the western Arctic heating their home but give a tax break to the guy driving the Hummer. That is the most convoluted, pretzel logic I have ever heard in terms of meeting a well-defined environmental problem.
We have been let down by both sides of the House today, with the exception of this little end where the NDP lives, where people are hearing some reasoned debate. The Conservatives have let us down with Bill , hobnobbing with nuclear lobbyists again. I believe they have fallen victim to a bunch of clever lobbyists again. We have been let down by the official opposition as well because those members have come up with something that will suck all the life out of the debate about reducing carbon emissions.
We only get one shot to capture the public's imagination, if we are to talk about limiting carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the debate is going to be about defeating this bad idea instead of being about solutions. We are going to have to waste our energy defeating the government's bad idea first before the genuine debate can begin.
Mr. Speaker, once again it is my pleasure to appear before a full House to speak to Bill . I notice my friend, the hon. member for , who knew I was speaking, decided to listen to my speech today, and I thank him for that.
First, I want to zero in on Bill , speak a little about it and try to put it the context of what we are dealing with when we look at energy.
In an overview of Bill , the Conservative government is taking what some would say a cavalier toward nuclear safety, and this recklessness is being supported by the other two opposition parties.
The bill will shortchange ordinary Canadians who get sick and die from a nuclear accident, or may lose all they own because of contamination or lose a family member who dies from cancer or radiation sickness.
The $650 million cap on compensation is not sufficient. The United States has a limit of $10 billion. Germany has an unlimited amount. Many countries are moving toward unlimited amounts. No private insurance is available, and it has been estimated that a nuclear accident would cost billions of dollars in damage, personal injury and death.
Let us look at nuclear safety. Despite assurances from the nuclear industry, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Windscale all show that the potential for a nuclear accident is real. Later on, if I have some time, I will once again give an account of some of the accidents that have happened in this industry.
The safety of nuclear installations must be paramount. We have already seen the government willing to put the lives and property of Canadians at risk to keep unsafe nuclear reactors running.
The nuclear industry is not really a green choice, as opposed to what some people might want us to believe. Nuclear waste remains deadly for thousands of years.
A few weeks ago I gave a brief statement on depleted uranium and the effects it had on those who used weapons containing depleted uranium, not only the soldiers of those armies who use these weapons, but civilian populations in countries such as Iraq.
Canada exports uranium to the United States with supposed assurances that it will never be used for weapons. However, experts say that some of it actually creeps into depleted uranium weapons, which then endangers the lives of people in those areas.
The last time I spoke with regard to depleted uranium, I mentioned a film which graphically illustrated the damaging effects. I have asked the government to ensure that we become a leader in banning and abolishing all the depleted uranium weapons in the world.
A person exposed to a used nuclear fuel bundle will be dead within an hour. There is no long term storage solution that has been found for the waste. The processing of fuel and waste has resulted in widespread contamination requiring expensive cleanups, and I cite the example of Fort Hope, Ontario and Rayrock Mine in the Northwest Territories.
Before moving on, I will mention that some people on this continent and in the world are tracking nuclear power reactors and the effects they have on surrounding populations. It would be very wise for our government to explore the possibility of doing a comprehensive study, at least in our country, and perhaps coordinating it with our neighbours to the south, to see what effects there are on the health of people who live in the surrounding areas of nuclear reactors.
Approximately a month ago I met with Dr. Leuren Moret from the United States. She has been quite heavily involved in the nuclear industry and is one of the leaders in the world exposing the danger of depleted uranium. She has been coordinating and looking at studies that link the effects on health with nuclear reactors. In addition to cancer, there is some evidence pointing to the correlation between high rates of diabetes and the proximity to nuclear reactors. Whether this is in fact the case, whether this is science, I am not sure, but these concerns warrant an investigation.
Our country should take the lead on this and say that we will challenge the world to investigate the fact that some people may suffer and die from the effects of living too close to nuclear reactors. As we move on in this debate, this is one of the things at which we could look.
The answer is not in building more nuclear reactors. In the budget the government has been investing in nuclear energy. It seems there is quite a lot of money for nuclear energy, but very little for green alternatives, such as solar power, wind power, wave generation, geothermal and all kinds of things that truly are green clean sources of energy, which have very little impact and leave a much smaller footprint on our planet. The government should be supporting more of these sources of energy in our country.
If the passage of the bill allows the expansion of nuclear power in our country, it will be a big step backward for us in our quest to have a greener and cleaner energy source in many ways. We need to ensure that it not only does not create greenhouse gases, which it does not in that respect, but we need to look at if for other things, such as the waste, the mining that takes place and the tragedy, human and otherwise, to which I just alluded, that it could inflict if there were to be an accident.
It is not the green source of energy we should invest in so heavily. We should be thinking of much cleaner greener ways to go. I will outline a few points from our NDP plan for the environment in a few minutes.
Bill limits the total liability of a nuclear operator to $650 million, which is the bottom of the international average. This is not enough.
Before outlining some of the tragic instances of nuclear accidents that have happened, it is important for us to realize there is another way of conserving energy and making our planet much more conducive to the environment. One way is what our party has proposed, and that is a cap and trade system. This is a mechanism at the heart of the Kyoto protocol. In fact, both candidates for the president of the United States have embraced cap and trade, making it a key tool in the continental fight against climate change. Cap and trade has already been tested in Europe and the NDP's plan builds on the lessons learned there.
My colleague, the hon. member for . was at an OECD conference in Europe. He said that the Europeans were embracing cap and trade as the way to conserve energy and fight climate change. They were not holding on to the fallacy of trying to put a tax on carbon so ordinary people would suffer, as my colleague from pointed out.
When we called on other parties to reject the Conservative's dead on arrival clean air act and work together to build better legislation, the resulting legislation was deemed a breakthrough bill by environmental groups. The centrepiece of the bill was a carbon pricing regime. However, that is not enough. In addition to this method, which works, we need to create jobs in the green environment sector.
We would propose a green collar jobs fund be established that would allocate $1 billion per year to train workers, displaced workers and new entrants to the job market, so they could be provided with the skills that would be necessary to power Canada into the new energy economy.
The green collar jobs fund would be used to leverage training apprenticeships and investment partnerships from provincial and territorial governments, from first nations, Métis and Inuit communities, and from the private sector. For my hon. Conservative friends I repeat, from the private sector.
High skills training would be needed for such areas as installing and maintaining energy efficient and renewable energy technology for alternative cars and fuels, manufacturing parts for wind turbines and other new energy technologies, and energy efficiency auditing expertise.
It is a shame that a Canadian solar power private enterprise has to go to Germany to set up business because there is not enough incentive available in our country. Parallel to this, tax breaks are being given to the big oil companies that are reaping billions of dollars in profits. Something in this equation is not right.
At the same time, as we see with this bill, we are limiting the amount of liability in a nuclear accident. As my hon. colleague who spoke before said, there is something wrong in this equation.
In the province of British Columbia, where I come from, we had BC Hydro in control of our public water and our power system. The current government in British Columbia is slowly dismantling the public trust of our waters and our energy and creating what it calls public-private companies to damn the creeks, create energy and sell it on the open market.
I want to emphasize the importance for senior levels of government to take the lead and the initiative. The time is gone when we could just sit back and say that we would let the market take over and let private enterprise run our energy system. It is up to each and every one of us to--