The Government of Canada is committed to protecting both the safety and security of Canadians and the environment in all aspects of the nuclear industry. Canada’s nuclear industry has operated safely and securely for more than 50 years and, today, supplies about 15 percent of Canada’s electricity. It has also been a key driver of Canadian science and technology. Canada has a strong, independent regulator — the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission — that is expert and appropriately resourced to deliver its critical mandate.
The Government of Canada continues to pursue new ways to further enhance safety, security and environmental protection in the nuclear sector. This legislation will modernize the nuclear civil liability regime and bring compensation in line with internationally accepted levels. This initiative will complete the modernization of Canada’s world-class nuclear regulatory framework. It also addresses a recommendation made by the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development in his fall 2012 report.
Bill C-22, introduced on January 30, will replace the 1976 Nuclear Liability Act, following through on the Government of Canada’s commitment to strengthen this important area of nuclear legislation. The legislation establishes a compensation and civil liability regime to address damages resulting from a nuclear accident. It applies to Canadian nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants, nuclear research reactors, fuel processing plants and facilities for managing used nuclear fuel.
Highlights of the Proposed Changes:
- The new legislation will maintain absolute liability of operators of nuclear facilities for civil injury and damage. This means that anyone affected does not need to prove fault when making claims for injury or damages.
- The new legislation will increase the amount of compensation available to address civil nuclear damage from $75 million to $1 billion. The new liability level is commensurate with current international standards.
- The new legislation will maintain that the operator is exclusively responsible. No other party can be held liable. Absolute liability and exclusive responsibility are important principles that establish clarity and accountability for the public and for the industry.
- The new legislation will permit operators to demonstrate their ability to meet potential financial obligations with traditional insurance and up to 50 percent of their liability with other forms of financial security. The government will provide coverage for certain risks for which there is no liability insurance. It will also partially indemnify lower-risk nuclear facilities, such as small research reactors.
- The new legislation will contain expanded definitions of compensable damage to include: bodily injury including death; psychological trauma associated with bodily injury; property damage; economic loss associated with bodily injury or property damage; costs of loss of use of property, including wages; environmental damage in the form of reasonable costs of remediation measures ordered by a competent authority; and costs associated with preventive measures (evacuation) if ordered by a competent authority.
- The new legislation will also contain a longer limitation period for submitting compensation claims for bodily injury (increasing to 30 years from the current 10 years) to address latent illnesses. A 10-year period would be maintained for all other forms of damage.
- The new legislation outlines the process for a quasi-judicial claims tribunal to be established to replace the regular court system if necessary in order to accelerate claims payments and provide an efficient and equitable forum.
- The new legislation will also implement the provisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage permitting Canada to ratify that Convention. Canada signed the Convention and tabled it in Parliament in December 2013.
- The Convention specifies how to address nuclear civil liability and compensation in the event of trans-boundary and transportation incidents resulting in civil nuclear damage among Convention member countries.
- The Convention is important for Canada as it would establish nuclear civil liability treaty relations with the U.S., which is already a party to the Convention.
- Once in force, the Convention will bolster Canada’s nuclear civil liability regime by financially supplementing its domestic regime.
- The Convention is not yet in force. It will come into force once it has been ratified by at least five countries with an installed nuclear capacity of 400,000 megawatts. Once Canada ratifies the Convention, one other country, such as Japan or South Korea who are considering the treaty, needs to ratify the Convention for it to come into force.
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