Thunder Bay

Why homeowners need to look beyond their own insurance in case there's a nuclear incident

Nuclear waste could be transported Ontario communities in the next 20 years if a waste repository is built near Ignace or in the municipality of South Bruce — a prospect that raises the issue of whether home insurance would be good enough in case of a nuclear incident.

NWMO considering Ontario communities of Ignace, South Bruce for proposed nuclear waste site

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization says any accident or incident involving the release of radiation for material being moved to its potential repository near Ignace, On, would be covered under the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act. (Nuclear Waste Management Organization)

Nuclear waste could be transported Ontario communities in the next 20 years if a waste repository is built near Ignace or in the municipality of South Bruce — a prospect that raises the issue of whether home insurance would be good enough in case of a nuclear incident.

The waste would originate from near facilities in southern Ontario, Quebec or New Brunswick, so could be trucked through numerous Ontario communities.

A standard homeowner's policy wouldn't cover your property or home if damaged or made uninhabitable because of a nuclear incident, said Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations (Ontario) for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

"[It's] difficult to quantify or put a price on what the cost to insure that, or it's a situation where it's over such a large and wide geographic area that it is uninsurable because of the potential payout in damage."

Karageorgos said that in his 27-year insurance career, he has never heard of nuclear waste being covered by a homeowner's policy.

NWMO spells out claim process 

But the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which is behind the proposed, $23-billion nuclear disposal site, said the federal Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act (NLCA) would come into effect in the event of a nuclear spill or other incident.

The act says any operator has absolute liability for any incident that releases radioactivity, up to a cap of $1 billion.

The total cap amount is reviewed at least every five years, the NWMO said.

"To address claims that exceed this amount, there is an international fund the Government of Canada contributes to and can access if needed," the NWMO said in a statement. "Claims that exceed that amount would be addressed by the federal government."

The NWMO said that internationally as well as domestically, there have been no serious injuries, health effects, fatalities, or environmental consequences from the transportation of nuclear waste.

Ignace, northwest of Thunder Bay, as well as South Bruce in southwestern Ontario are the communities being considered for what the NWMO is calling a "deep geological repository." The NWMO says it's working with local communities in selecting the site in 2023.

Transportation of the waste would not start until the 2040s, when the repository would be operational.

Drilling resumes

The NWMO announced Wednesday it would restart its drilling operation near Ignace.

The work will have the fifth borehole in the area drilled, as well as core analysis and testing taking place, examining the geological structure of the area.

The NWMO said the field work for one borehole can take nine months to complete.

It says the drilling activities are part of scientific studies to evaluate the geology of the two potential siting areas.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story noted in the photo cutline that the NWMO was responsible for any nuclear accident or incident. The NWMO says actual coverage of any release of radiation would be covered under the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act.
    May 07, 2021 11:26 AM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

now