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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


To the National Post regarding a a Nov. 12, 2003 Op-Ed by Lawrence Solomon of Energy Probe which made misleading statements about nuclear liabilty insurance in Canada:

(published 2003 Nov. 24)

November 13, 2003

To the Editor,

Lawrence Solomon is incorrect in telling Canadians that they “have no protection in the event of a nuclear accident … your government has taken away your rights to compensation in order to allow the nuclear industry to operate unaccountably” (Financial Post, 2003 November 12).

Quite the contrary, the rights of Canadians to compensation following a nuclear accident are entrenched in the federal Nuclear Liability Act (1976). The NLA streamlines the claim process by (1) channeling liability directly to the operator and (2) removing the need to prove negligence.

The operator, in turn, is given a liability cap of $75 million. If this limit were ever reached (there have been no claims to date), the government is authorized to oversee the balance of claims.

Note that the industry’s liability coverage is provided by a consortium of the private insurance industry, and this is precisely why you won’t find “nuclear accident” coverage in your homeowner insurance: the insurance industry is particularly sensitive about indemnifying people twice.

One can debate the level of the liability cap, and such discussion is underway at the federal level. It is irresponsible, however, to report that no protection exists.

Furthermore, to suggest that the government allows the nuclear industry, possibly the most regulated sector of the Canadian economy, to “operate unaccountably”, is absurd. The safety and environmental performance of nuclear generating plants are second to none, and a matter of public record.


Jeremy Whitlock

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