Remarks at the Senate Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee
Remarks by Dr. John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
at the Senate Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee regarding the Energy Safety and Security Act (Bill C-22)
January 29, 2015
Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable senators, for inviting me to appear on behalf of the Canadian nuclear industry on this important bill.
The Canadian Nuclear Association is a non-profit organization established in 1960 to represent the nuclear industry in Canada. We promote the development and growth of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes.
We represent the full spectrum of nuclear technologies that mean quality of life for Canadians, from medical imaging for faster diagnosis to more-efficient and less-invasive therapies, from sterilizing pharmaceuticals and food and medical supplies to testing the sophisticated materials that underlie all advanced manufacturing and from generating clean, affordable electricity to enabling path-breaking research into combatting climate change. Moreover, ours is the only energy industry that accounts fully for all of its waste, which we hold in safe and secure storage.
Nuclear power plants stand at the centre of this industry, providing about 15 percent of Canada’s electricity. In New Brunswick, for example, a single reactor provides about 30 per cent of all electricity generated in that province. Eighteen reactors in Ontario provide enough electricity to meet nearly 60 percent of the province’s demand. In this room, your lights, recording system and electrical devices are mostly nuclear-powered.
Nuclear technology is an integral part of Canadian engineering, manufacturing and innovation. It develops knowledge with direct commercial application and improves the lives of Canadians.
Some types of energy come mostly from natural resources with a little science and engineering. Nuclear energy works the other way around: considerable science and engineering applied to a small quantity of natural resources. A single 20-gram uranium pellet destined for a reactor will yield as much energy as 350 cubic metres of natural gas, or 410 litres of oil, or 400 kilograms of coal. Eight uranium pellets will power the average-sized house for a full year.
Being carbon-free, this clean electricity is therefore a national strategic asset that mitigates our country’s GHG emissions. Clean nuclear electricity in Ontario and New Brunswick creates flexibility for Canada in regulating greenhouse gases.
Nuclear technology is also a net economic contributor. According to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the nuclear industry directly employs some 30,000 Canadians and another 30,000 Canadians indirectly through our suppliers across the country.
Many Canadians do not know that our industry is an important employer in northern Saskatchewan. Two uranium mining companies there employ more than 5,000 people, many of them First Nations or Métis. Cameco Corporation is this country’s largest industrial aboriginal employer.
Again citing the manufacturers and exporters, 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 hallmark is safety. It inextricably permeates our corporate culture. Nuclear power stations have never exposed any member of the public to radiation. Nor have nuclear transporters. Our industry moves thousands of packages a year through the Canadian transport system without incident. In Saskatchewan, according to that province’s Workers Compensation Board, uranium mining has a lower time-loss injury rate than farms, construction – even the provincial government.
We are proud of the fact that there has never been a claim under the Canadian Nuclear Liability Act. We are determined to see that none will ever occur under the new Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act.
Our industry supports the passage of Bill C-22. This legislation would protect Canadians and improve the industry’s ability to manage risks responsibly.
With the passage of the 1976 Nuclear Liability Act, 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.
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 Canada’s ratification of the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation. This multilateral treaty, already 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 5 in the United States and 26 in China. Canada enjoys an enviable international reputation as a nuclear pioneer and global leader in technological innovation, robust safety parameters and regulatory effectiveness. We are wanted as a partner because Canadian nuclear means quality, integrity, security, and safety.
China has recognized this fact. Last month China and Canada agreed to deepen our nuclear cooperation. The Chinese National Nuclear Corporation signed a joint venture with Candu Energy to develop markets worldwide, based on the Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor. This global commercial partnership creates significant opportunity for Canadian technology.
Mr. Chair and honourable senators, we support this proposed legislation, and urge the Senate to pass it into law.
With that said, there is one point that deserves the government’s attention.
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.
In summary, Mr. Chair and honourable senators, the Canadian nuclear industry supports this bill. 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.