The federal government has introduced legislation that will dramatically boost the civil liability ceiling for nuclear operators from $75 million to $1 billion.
Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver tabled Bill C-22, the Energy Safety and Security Act on January 30, 2014.
The new cap would be first increase to the civil liability ceiling in 40 years. The current cap has been widely viewed as outdated, particularly in the wake of 2011′s Fukushima disaster in Japan, which led to tens of billions of dollars in civil damage claims.
Critics of the newly proposed cap increase say that Canada needs to introduce unlimited liability if it wants to have the ability to take on an actual nuclear disaster and the massive remediation efforts it would require. However, the nuclear industry has said that unlimited liability would encourage a company involved in an accident to declare bankruptcy and walk away, leaving governments on the financial hook.
Liability thresholds under the new legislation will range between $30 million to $40 million for energy companies and offshore shippers, depending on where they operate.
The legislation will enact a judicial claims tribunal that is intended to speed up damage claims in the event of an accident. However, the new legislation will maintain that the operator is exclusively responsible for any accident.
Only half of the billion-dollar liability coverage for nuclear operators will have to be covered using traditional insurance. Operators will be allowed to put up other forms of financial security for the remaining $500 million.
The new legislation will also boost coverage for exploratory drilling operations offshore, production operations, the loading of tankers for transport and undersea pipelines.