Canadian government introduces nuclear liability legislation

4 February 2014

The Canadian government has introduced nuclear liability legislation that will increase the absolute liability limit of operators from $75 million to $1 billion and permit Canada to implement the International Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. The Convention is important for Canada as it would establish nuclear civil liability treaty relations with the US, which is already a party to the Convention.

Canada's nuclear industry supplies about 15% of Canada's electricity. This initiative will complete the modernization of Canada's nuclear regulatory framework. It also addresses a recommendation made by the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development in his fall 2012 report.

"The legislation applies to Canadian nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants, research reactors, fuel processing plants and facilities for managing used nuclear fuel"

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, research reactors, fuel processing plants and facilities for managing used nuclear fuel.

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 permit operators to demonstrate their ability to meet potential financial obligations with traditional insurance and up to 50% 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.

Canada and US sign amendment to agreement on civil cooperation

In a related development, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the United States Department of Energy (US DOE) have signed an amended Administrative Arrangement pursuant to the Agreement for cooperation concerning civil uses of atomic energy between the USA and Canada.

The Administrative Arrangement provides 'further clarity' regarding the exchange of information between the CNSC and the US DOE, allowing for the continued transfer of nuclear items for peaceful uses, in accordance with Canada's nuclear non-proliferation policy.

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