Economic impacts of a nuclear accident in Ontario

Page - September 15, 2011
Greenpeace has released a report on the potential economic impacts of a nuclear accident at the Darlington or Pickering nuclear stations in Ontario. We commissioned the Centre for Spatial Economics to produce the report titled: “Economic Impacts of a Nuclear Accident at the Pickering or Darlington Nuclear Stations.”

What does the report examine?

The report estimates the economic loses if a nuclear accident forced the evacuation of a 20 kilometre area around the Darlington and Pickering nuclear stations. 

A 20-km zone has been evacuated around the Fukushima nuclear station in Japan.  Statements by the Japanese government indicate the evacuation zone may need to be permanently depopulated because of the high radiation levels.

There has been a 30-km evacuation zone around the Chernobyl nuclear station since disaster there in1986.

What is the main finding of the report?

The economic impacts of a nuclear accident at Pickering and Darlington stations could exceed by hundreds of billions of dollars the level of compensation available to victims.

Thus, in the event of a nuclear accident victims would be forced to pay the clean up costs either directly or through their taxes.

Don’t nuclear operators have to compensate accident victims in the event of an accident?

No.  Nuclear operators are protected by a special piece of legislation called the Nuclear Liability Act and do not have to pay more than $75 million dollars in the event of a reactor accident.

Does my personal home insurance cover nuclear accidents?

No.  Home insurance policies exempt nuclear accidents.  In the event of a nuclear accident, victims would be forced to pay the clean up costs either directly or through their taxes.

What is the value of homes around the Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations that isn’t insured?

There are 437,000 households around the Pickering nuclear station valued at $178 billion.  There are 163,000 households around the Darlington nuclear station valued at $57 billion. 

These amounts far exceed the $75 million dollars in insurance carried by Ontario Power Generation.

How many people would need to be evacuated in the event of a Fukushima-scale accident at Pickering or Darlington?

An accident causing the evacuation of a 20-km area around the Pickering nuclear station would force the relocation of 1.3 million people.  At the Darlington nuclear station it would force the relocation of 477,000 people.

What did the report not consider?

The report did not estimate the economic impacts of a nuclear accident on the health, evacuation costs, water supplies throughout the Great Lakes or the interruption of transportation on Highway 401 or on rail lines.

Could an accident leading to the release of radiation happen here in Canada?

Yes. All reactors operating in Canada are vulnerable to accidents caused by a combination of human error, design flaws and natural disasters.

Indeed, the Canadian nuclear industry believes nuclear accidents like the Fukushima accident are possible here in Canada.  That’s why they’ve asked for the special legislation that protects them from compensating victims in the event of an accident.

Does the cap on the nuclear industry’s accident liability have a negative impact on green energy?

Yes.   The cap on the nuclear industry’s accident liability represents a hidden subsidy for nuclear power and creates an unfair playing field for safer green energy technologies.   This hidden subsidy pushes cleaner, safer and more cost-effective green energy options out of the electricity markets.

What should the Ontario government do?

Ontario should drop plans to build new reactors at Darlington and invest in green energy instead.

Since the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan many countries have decided the risk of nuclear power is too high and are abandoning nuclear power.

Japan has abandoned plans for new reactors and is investing in green energy instead.  Switzerland also dropped plans for new reactors.  

Both Germany and Switzerland are phasing out their existing reactors and ramping up their use of safer green energy.

What does the Greenpeace want the federal government to do?

Level the playing field for green energy.  Reactor operators must be required to assume responsibility for the risks they impose on society just like green energy operators.

Download the report: Economic Impacts of a Nuclear Accident at the Pickering or Darlington Nuclear Stations

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