Pickering shaken by false alarm
ERRONEOUS NUCLEAR ALERT ISSUED DURING TRAINING EXERCISE IN ONTARIO
The unintended release of an Ontario-wide alert about an “incident” at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station on Sunday has sparked a provincial investigation into how such an error could happen and how such future mistakes can be avoided.
The province’s solicitor general said the error occurred during a routine training exercise being conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC).
The PEOC — which is responsible for coordinating the provincial government’s response to major emergencies — conducts exercises testing the system twice daily, but there was no intention to notify the public, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in an interview.
“At one of those tests this morning, instead of it going out on the test side, it went out live to the people of Ontario, and for that I sincerely apologize,” she said. “It should not have happened, which is why I have asked the chief of Emergency Management Ontario, Doug Brown, to launch a full investigation.”
She said the investigation will examine the sequence of events that led to the alert being sent out and what contingency measures should be in place. Jones said she expects the results of the probe to be made public.
“I want to delve deeper into the specifics of how it occurred, because it is very unusual,” she said.
The alert was pushed to cellphones across the province at about 7:30 a.m., and Ontario Power Generation, which oversees the Pickering plant, sent out a tweet about 40 minutes after the emergency alert saying it was a mistake.
A followup alert was sent to cellphones nearly two hours after the original notification, and about an hour after the OPG tweet.
Jones said it took so long to send a second alert because the province felt it needed to “trust, but confirm” that there really was no impending disaster.
“There is NO active nuclear situation taking place at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station,” the alert said. “The previous alert was issued in error. There is no danger to the public or environment. No further action is required.”