On­tario nu­clear emer­gency plan in­ad­e­quate: en­vi­ron­men­tal groups

Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION -

TORONTO On­tario’s pro­posed plan for how to re­spond in the un­likely event of a nu­clear emer­gency falls short, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups say.

The prov­ince re­cently re­leased an up­date to its emer­gency plan­ning for po­ten­tial large-scale ac­ci­dents at the Pick­er­ing, Dar­ling­ton, Bruce Power, Chalk River and FERMI 2 nu­clear sites.

It deals with co-or­di­nat­ing re­sponses and pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tion, zones and evac­u­a­tion pro­ce­dures, pre­vent­ing food and water con­tam­i­na­tion, and lim­it­ing ex­po­sure to ra­di­a­tion.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, in­clud­ing Green­peace and the Cana­dian En­vi­ron­men­tal Law As­so­ci­a­tion, say the pro­posal isn’t based on a large enough in­ci­dent, and needs to plan for an ac­ci­dent on the scale of the 2011 nu­clear dis­as­ter in Fukushima, Ja­pan.

“Given we’re see­ing nu­clear ac­ci­dents at the in­ter­na­tional level about once a decade, we need to pre­pare for such events,” said Shawn-Pa­trick Sten­sil with Green­peace. “Th­ese pro­pos­als do a dis­ser­vice to On­tar­i­ans. They make no pro­pos­als to tan­gi­bly strengthen pub­lic safety and ig­nore key lessons from Fukushima. It’s un­ac­cept­able.”

Com­mu­nity Safety Min­is­ter Marie-France Lalonde said the plan “def­i­nitely” cov­ers a Fukushi­mas­cale ac­ci­dent.

“We’ve learned many things from the event in Ja­pan, un­for­tu­nately,” she said.

Bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the pub­lic, par­tic­u­larly those liv­ing near nu­clear sites, is needed, said Theresa McCle­naghan, with the Cana­dian En­vi­ron­men­tal Law As­so­ci­a­tion.

“The gen­eral pub­lic is mainly not aware of nu­clear emer­gency plan­ning and pro­tec­tive mea­sures around each of the nu­clear power plants in On­tario,” she said. “If an ac­ci­dent were to hap­pen peo­ple need to be able to take pro­tec­tive ac­tion like tak­ing thy­roid block­ing pills — KI pills — just be­fore or as ra­dioac­tive emis­sions be­gin to oc­cur, as well as evac­u­ate safely.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates have for years been urg­ing a wider dis­tri­bu­tion of those potas­sium io­dide, or KI, pills. Ra­dioac­tive io­dine is re­leased in the event of a nu­clear ac­ci­dent, and the potas­sium io­dide pills can help pro­tect against thy­roid cancer.

The pills are cur­rently dis­trib­uted to house­holds and busi­nesses within a 10-kilo­me­tre ra­dius of the nu­clear sites, but the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists want that to be 50 km. Peo­ple out­side the 10-km ra­dius can cur­rently re­quest the pills.

The groups also say the gov­ern­ment has no com­pre­hen­sive plan to ad­dress po­ten­tial con­tam­i­na­tion of the Great Lakes, which are a source of drink­ing water for mil­lions.

Lalonde said bot­tled water would be dis­trib­uted.

“As we move for­ward in our plan based on the plume and the zone as to how sig­nif­i­cant — in the un­likely event that this was to oc­cur — cer­tainly our plan will dis­trib­ute the water through var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions that would be part of the emer­gency pre­pared­ness.”

The plan sets out dif­fer­ent plans for dif­fer­ent zones around the nu­clear sites. Pri­or­ity evac­u­a­tions will be in the con­tigu­ous or ad­ja­cent zone, three kilo­me­tres around Pick­er­ing, Dar­ling­ton and Bruce.

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