Imagine you could go to Las Vegas, and it didn't matter how much you bet, you could only lose $100. Wouldn't you take bigger risks? Of course you would. Unfortunately this is precisely the scenario facing the nuclear industry.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proposed a new law to shield nuclear companies from responsibility in the event of an accident. If passed Bill C-22 would cap the liability of reactor operators to $1 billion after a reactor accident.
This is a pittance. It means that the event of Fukushima-scale accident, reactor operators would be responsible for less than 1 per cent of damage they cause. Canadians would cover the rest.
Worse, Bill C-22 would completely absolve companies that design or service Canada's reactors of responsibility -- even if their negligence caused an accident.
The bill tells nuclear companies it's okay for them to have no skin in the game. If passed, the game will be rigged. Bill C-22 would guarantee nuclear companies always hit the jackpot no matter the risks.
The ongoing Fukushima disaster in Japan shows why this is not only unfair, but just plain dangerous.
Three years after the Fukushima disaster began there are over 100,000 people who can't return home because of Fukushima's fallout. Those affected are scattered across Japan, their lives in limbo. Some live in temporary government housing. Others live with relatives or friends. They've lost their homes, their livelihoods and their communities. They're refugees in their own country.
Imagine if this happened at one the 10 reactors in the Greater Toronto Area. Millions would be displaced instead of thousands.
Adding insult to injury, the corporations that caused the Fukushima disaster aren't paying compensation to the victims. They should.
Fukushima wasn't caused by an unforeseeable tsunami as claimed by the nuclear lobby.
It was caused by the negligence of corporations. Those companies were well aware of the tsunami risk at Fukushima. They had studies showing a tsunami could hit the station. They did nothing. They were aware of flaws in the design and construction of the Fukushima reactors that worsened radioactive releases. They did nothing.
Why? Because regardless of the consequences they wouldn't pick up the tab. Japan had a law similar to the one proposed by Prime Minister Harper shielding nuclear companies from liability.
These companies knew they were gambling with other people's money. They knew they'd hit the jackpot no matter the consequences.
And that's exactly what they've done. Companies making billions annually have been allowed to walk away from Fukushima. Their victims have been left to pay the bill.
If this happened to any other industry, these companies would be held accountable. Justice would be served. Clearly, no industry should be allowed to gamble with other people's money and livelihoods. It's dangerous and unfair.
As seen in Fukushima, it's dangerous because it encourages companies to put people at risk. It's unfair because it makes victims and taxpayers pay for the pollution of nuclear companies.
We're seeing a major nuclear accident somewhere in the world about once a decade. But instead of encouraging increased levels of safety at Canadian reactors, the Harper government's Bill C-22 encourages nuclear companies to take risks.
This is pure folly. It's reckless to give any industry the legislated right to gamble with the lives and livelihoods of Canadians.
We should take heed of how the special protection given nuclear companies is now viewed in Japan. While the Harper government pushes through Bill C-22, which in true Harper fashion is bundled into an omnibus bill to avoid public debate, thousands of Fukushima's victims are challenging the law which gives nuclear companies immunity in court.
Let's call the nuclear industry's bluff. If the nuclear industry has confidence in the safety of its reactors, it should take responsibility for its actions like the rest of us.
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