Public Review of Nuclear Shield Law Needed, Say Environmentalists

Joint release from CELA and Greenpeace

Apr 08 2013

Ottawa – The federal government’s closed-door negotiations with the nuclear industry on how to modernize the Nuclear Liability Act (NLA) must end and be replaced by a broader public consultation, say Greenpeace and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

Today the environmental groups asked Natural Resources Canada to undertake a public review of the NLA through a petition to the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development. Passed in the 1970s, the NLA caps the liability of reactor operators at $75 million dollars in the event of an accident and completely absolves reactor suppliers and vendors of responsibility.

“It’s unacceptable that the Harper government wants to continue protecting the nuclear industry without consulting Canadians,” says Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.

The groups made the request after learning that Natural Resources Canada has been solely consulting with industry stakeholders, according to the most recent Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner’s report (see Chapter 2 re Financial Assurances for Environmental Risks).

“The ongoing Fukushima disaster shows why we need a public discussion on revising Canada’s nuclear liability legislation. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens lost their homes and have gone without proper compensation while the large corporations responsible for the disaster have walked away,” says Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the CELA.

“Fukushima taught us that protecting nuclear companies in the event of an accident allows them to ignore safety and increase accident risks. Canada’s nuclear liability law should safeguard Canadians first and make nuclear companies responsible for the risks they create,” says Stensil.

The groups also asked the government to commission studies on the economic, environmental and social impact of a major accident in Canada to inform potential changes to the NLA. Both organizations say the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has refused to assess the impact of major accidents and has ignored many of the lessons from Fukushima.

Many countries have removed the cap on reactor operator liability. India has passed a new nuclear liability law that opens the door to suing reactor suppliers in the event of an accident.

The Department of Natural Resource Canada must respond within three months to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on CELA and Greenpeace’s request.

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For more information:

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Nuclear Analyst, Greenpeace, [English/French], 416-884-7053
Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director, Canadian Environmental Law Association, 416-662-8341