Thursday, July 02, 2009

On liabilities

With all the other issues surrounding nuclear power in Canada, it wouldn't have come as much surprise if the Cons' efforts to pass another sweetheart liability regime for operators both public and private had managed to slip under the radar. But fortunately, NDP MP Nathan Cullen is on the job in pointing out how the Harper government wants to leave the public on the hook for any nuclear damage:
The government wants to update the Nuclear Liability Act to increase the maximum to $650 million in damages from the current $75 million set in the 1970s, but the NDP's Nathan Cullen said it should be in the billions of dollars.

"The crux of it is how much you can sue for in the event of a nuclear accident," said the MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.

Cullen said it's difficult to have confidence in an industry that has to be afforded this kind of protection in the first place, but completely another matter to lowball the cost of human life. "Get somewhere in the ballpark ... into the billions for sure," he said in an interview.
Cullen said the liability limit is about $10 billion in the U.S. In most other countries there is no ceiling.

"It is a pretty unusual situation as far as we can tell that Canada would have this very low ceiling," he said.

Cullen and other critics suspect the reason behind the $650 million figures (sic) is to make Canada more attractive for companies wanting to build nuclear power plants.
Of course, the argument for a higher (or no) liability ceiling would seem to be one that the nuclear industry would readily concede if it actually believed its own spin that nothing can possibly go wrong. But to the extent nuclear operators do actually see an exceptionally low liability cap as a reason to build in Canada, that fact would suggest that the industry itself is far less confident about the safety of nuclear power than it presents to the public.

On the other hand, one could argue that liability cap actually doesn't serve as much of an inducement. But if that's the case, then the cap would seem to be nothing more than a gratuitous giveaway to an industry that doesn't value it in the slightest. And there's little reason to believe that Canada's population at large wants to financially subsidize the effects of nuclear development gone wrong, particularly when any incident would seem sure to have plenty of other public consequences as well.

So one way or another, the Cons' attempt to keep an unusually low liability limit for nuclear operators should raise some serious questions about whose interests they really have in mind. And the likely conclusion seems to be that the public shouldn't be caught on the hook for any nuclear incidents.

No comments:

Post a Comment