Canadians could bail out nuclear industry for catastrophic accidents

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      We all know that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in no hurry to turn Canada into an alternative-energy world beater.

      Nor does he appear to be overly concerned about Canada's dreadful record in curbing greenhouse-gas emissions.

      But some Canadians may be surprised to learn that he has also left governments with massive financial liabilities if there's ever a Fukushima-style nuclear meltdown in Canada.

      In a recent article on the iPOLITICS site, journalist James Munson pointed out that the 1976 Nuclear Liability Act has never been amended.

      It means, according to Munson, that "a company like Ontario's Bruce Power would only have to pay $75 million in damages if something were to happen at one of its facilities. Taxpayer money would then step in to cover the rest."

      The federal government has been planning for years to increase the cap on liability to $650 million.

      But that doesn't satisfy Greenpeace. In a 2009 report, it declared that af $650-million ceiling fails to approach international standards.

      Greenpeace campaigner Shawn-Patrick Stensil recently revisited the issue of nuclear safety in an April 9 blog post.

      He claimed that engineering giant SNC-Lavalin "used its backroom influence over Canada's Conservative government" to get former Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission boss Linda Keen fired.

      "Like Japan, Canada's nuclear industry has been allowed to pull the strings of its own regulator," Stensil alleged.

      The official report of the Japanese Diet (legislature) into the Fukushima disaster concluded that the nuclear-power industry was "immune to scrutiny by civil society".

      "Its regulation was entrusted to the same government bureaucracy responsible for its promotion," concluded committee chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa in the document. "At a time when Japan's self-confidence was soaring, a tightly knit elite with enormous financial resources had diminishing regard for anything 'not invented here'."

      He added that this "conceit was reinforced by the collective mindset of the Japanese bureaucracy, by which the first duty of any individual bureaucrat is to defend the interests of his organization".

      "Carried to an extreme," Kurokawa added, "this led bureaucrats to put organizational interests ahead of their paramount duty to protect public safety. Only by grasping this mindset can one understand how Japan's nuclear industry managed to avoid absorbing the critical lessons learned from Three MIle Island and Chernobyl; and how it became accepted practice to resist regulatory pressure and cover up small-scale accidents. It was this mindset that led to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant."


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      Heather Black

      Apr 11, 2013 at 4:59am

      If you knew anything about CANDU reactors, you would know that they are failsafe. Why do you think insurers are so confident in providing coverage? Insurance companies are not foolish, they're in it for the money and CANDU is a safe bet.

      gilbert marks

      Apr 11, 2013 at 8:55am

      All Canadian nukes are publicly owned, so all liability goes to the taxpayer anyway. Bruce is leased from the Ontario Government.

      None of Canada's numerous Bhopal type chemical facilities in urban areas are publicly owned but a $100B accident killing tens of thousands, rendering hundreds of sq miles of land uninhabitable forever with toxic forever chemical pollution in an accident many orders of magnitude more likely than a nuclear one, still retains that $75M liability limit.

      Remembering that Chernobyl was a Soviet nuke weapons plant similar to the US facility at Hanford, we note that nuclear power has never killed a soul worldwide - a perfect safety record.

      bob vandelay

      Apr 11, 2013 at 9:14am

      same old nonsense from greenpeace... why not re-direct your efforts to things that matter (e.g., wildlife protection/preservation, pollution, etc..)? then maybe others will take you seriously.

      billy jefferson

      Apr 11, 2013 at 8:50pm

      Nuclear is safe, just move it from 75 to 650 and be done with it since there won't be an accident and the operators have nothing to worry about right?