Fukushima’s victims show why Harper must update nuclear liability law

Feature story - February 19, 2013
Hundreds of thousands of victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan are still denied fair compensation from a governmental regulatory system that allows the nuclear industry to evade its responsibilities and forces the public to pay for its disasters. Canada lives under the same system.

 

A new Greenpeace International report, “Fukushima Fallout: Nuclear business makes people pay and suffer” reveals the ugly truth of that system. It details how serious flaws in nuclear regulations worldwide leave the public, not nuclear plant operators or suppliers of key equipment, to pay for the vast majority of the costs in the event of a nuclear accident.

“The Fukushima disaster exposes the shameful defects in a system that only requires nuclear operators to pay a fraction of the costs of a disaster and does not require suppliers of reactors to pay anything,’’ said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Nuclear Analyst with Greenpeace Canada. “This unfair system has left hundreds of thousands in Japan without proper compensation because the nuclear industry is not held accountable for its failures. This could happen in Canada too.”

Greenpeace commissioned Dr. David McNeill, who has written extensively about the Fukushima disaster, Dr. Antony Froggatt, a nuclear and energy policy expert, and Professor Stephen Thomas, an expert in the economics and policy of nuclear power, to write the report. They examined the various conventions and rules that protect the industry from paying the costs of nuclear disasters. They found that the system is consistently and woefully inadequate.

 

Estimates put the damages from the Fukushima disaster at up to $250 billion Canadian. TEPCO, Fukushima’s operator, was nationalized because it was unable to pay even the early recovery costs. Under the current liability system, TEPCO suppliers GE, Hitachi and Toshiba – that provided reactors based on a flawed design – are not required to pay any compensation. Japanese taxpayers, including evacuees, will end up paying the bulk of the costs of the disaster.

Earlier this month, Canada’s Environment Commissioner called on the federal government to modernize Canada’s Nuclear Liability Act, which limits the damages a reactor operator might pay to $75 million. It also protects reactor suppliers like SNC-Lavalin, which wants to build new reactor at Darlington, from paying compensation to victims.

Today, Greenpeace Canada launched a petition to demand the Harper government to revise Canada’s Nuclear Liability Act and make all responsible companies liable in the event of an accident. The petition can be signed at www.greenpeace.ca/nukepolluters.

To download the full report: www.greeenpeace.ca/FukushimaFallout
To read Q&A on nuclear liability