Remarks at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources

June 5, 2014

Remarks by Dr. John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources Regarding the Energy Safety and Security Act (Bill C-22)
June 5, 2014

Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for inviting me to appear on behalf of the Canadian nuclear industry.

The Canadian Nuclear Association is a non-profit organization established in 1960 to represent the nuclear industry in Canada. The association promotes the development and growth of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes. It represents the nuclear spectrum, from uranium mining to waste management, and at all points in between.

The Canadian nuclear industry provides isotopes that improve cancer diagnostics and therapies, imaging that improves manufacturing quality, and electricity that avoids greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. Through these activities, the Canadian nuclear industry directly employs 30,000 Canadians and another 30,000 Canadians indirectly through our suppliers.

According to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association, the industry generates nearly $7 billion of economic activity, exports $1.2 billion in goods and services, and pays $1.5 billion in federal and provincial taxes.

In all of our activities, our business is safety. It inextricably permeates our corporate culture.

Nuclear power plant operators hold an enviable safety record, highly regarded by employees, host communities, and the nuclear industry globally. We are proud of the fact that there has never been a claim under the Nuclear Liability Act. We are determined to see that none will ever occur under the proposed Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act.

Our industry supports the passage of Bill C-22. This legislation would improve the nuclear liability framework, bringing it in line with international standards. It would protect Canadians, and improve the industry’s ability to manage risks responsibly.

With the passage of the Nuclear Liability Act in 1976, our industry accepted the principles of absolute and exclusive operator liability, mandatory financial security, and liability limitations in time and amount. These principles are standard features of nuclear legislation in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

Bill C-22 adequately balances the needs of industry and the needs of Canadians. In updating the 1976 legislation, Parliament would bring Canada in line with modern international standards. Our members appreciate the government’s flexibility in proposing financial instruments as insurance alternatives.

Moreover, the nuclear industry strongly supports the ratification of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation. This treaty, ratified by the United States, will provide further protection in the case of an international incident. It will also improve the industry’s ability to export Canada’s significant nuclear expertise.

There are significant global opportunities presented by the current construction of 71 nuclear reactors, including five in the United States and 20 in China. Canada enjoys an enviable international reputation as a nuclear pioneer and global leader in technological innovation and regulatory effectiveness.

Mr. Chair, we support the provisions of this proposed legislation, and urge parliamentarians to pass it into law. With that said, there are two points that deserve the government’s attention.

First, we would urge the Minister to use his authority to increase the number of eligible insurers. Our members face a substantial increase in premiums, and would appreciate the benefits of open and fair competition in the insurance market. The government’s recent actions have ended a long-running monopoly, but greater competition will be needed when this bill is proclaimed.

Second, we seek a clarification of the term “nuclear installation.” We detect a difference between the interpretation provided in the bill and that provided in the backgrounder that accompanies the bill. In the backgrounder, nuclear installations are defined as, and I quote, “Canadian nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants, nuclear research reactors, fuel processing plants and facilities for managing used nuclear fuel.” In the bill, however, the definition of nuclear installation is potentially much broader. If the backgrounder is correct in identifying only these four types of installations, then the legislation should be made equally clear.

In summary, Mr. Chair and committee members, the Canadian nuclear industry supports this bill, just as we supported the government’s previous efforts to amend the Nuclear Liability Act. These amendments, long overdue, would bring Canada’s nuclear liability regime in line with international standards. We encourage you and your colleagues to pass this legislation with the improvements that we have recommended.

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