The Conservative government is poised to introduce legislation that will raise the liability for civilian damages for nuclear operators to $1-billion from the current $75 million.
The Canadian Press has learned that will be included in an act Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver will introduce in the Commons today to improve offshore energy safety and security along with nuclear security.
The move is part of an orchestrated government effort to get ahead of widespread environment concerns about Canada's energy regulation.
The new bill will conform to an international nuclear accord on supplementary compensation and will allow Canada to ratify the convention it signed late last year.
Since the devastating meltdown of the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan almost three years ago, fears have been raised that Canada's nuclear industry is not properly indemnified against catastrophic accidents.
The new legislation will expand the range of damages that can be claimed and will triple to 30 years the length of time a person can wait to make a claim for latent illnesses.
The bill will also set up a quasi-judicial claims tribunal, if needed, to help speed up damage claims in the event of an accident.
Only half 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.
And the government of Canada will provide some of the coverage for lower-risk nuclear facilities, such as smaller research reactors.
The Fukushima meltdown was caused by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that has resulted in the complete shut-down of Japan's nuclear reactor fleet.
Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has estimated it will cost at least US$31 billion over 30 years to clean up the site, and could cost as much as $58 billion.