Nuclear emergency preparation: we’re not ready

Mike Schreiner’s submitted the following comment to the Ontario government’s update to the Nuclear Emergency Response Plan.

July 28, 2017

Hon. Marie-France Lalonde
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Reference: # 013-0560

Dear Hon. Marie-France Lalonde,

Twenty-five nuclear reactors line the shores of the Great Lakes. 40 million people rely upon the Great Lakes for drinking water. 4.5 million people live within 50 KM of the Darlington and Pickering Nuclear Generating Stations. Protecting people and drinking water must be a top priority for the Ontario government.

That’s why we welcome the Ontario government’s long overdue call for public input into updating the province’s inadequate nuclear emergency response plan.

Unfortunately, the province’s nuclear emergency plans fail to protect the people of Ontario.

It’s unacceptable that Ontario’s Discussion Paper on Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan (PNERP): Planning Basis Review and Recommendations does not recommend strengthening emergency plans to international best practices in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

We believe it is irresponsible and reckless for your government to expose Ontario to the risks of a Fukushima scale (International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) level 7) nuclear disaster without adequate emergency plans in place. It is inexplicable that in the wake of both the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters the PNERP does not recommend updating and strengthening Ontario’s nuclear emergency response.

Your government must act to put the safety of Ontarians ahead of the nuclear industry.

We urge your government to:

  1. Require the government to meet or exceed international best practices for nuclear emergency response planning and preparedness, by revising the PNERP.
  2. Instruct the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) to upgrade Ontario’s reference accident from a INES 5 accident to an INES 7 accident to match the best practice set by Switzerland’s recent decision to make this change.
  3. Create a municipal, provincial and federal integrated emergency management plan that takes into account the possibility of a severe accident at an Ontario nuclear generating station, including multiple simultaneous reactor accidents.
  4. Implement emergency measures to improve notification and evacuation of residents, as well as mitigation of the effects of radiotoxic releases.
  5. Require the pre-distribution of potassium iodide (KI) pills to all residents living within 30 kilometers of a nuclear generating station and make KI pills available to anyone within 100 KM. Expand the detailed evacuation zone (the Primary Zone) to 20 KM and the secondary zone to 100 KM.
  6. Limit the construction of residences, schools, long term care facilities in the vicinity of nuclear reactors and nuclear waste storage.
  7. Adequately resource OFMEM to meet the provincial government’s constitutional responsibilities for nuclear emergency preparedness.
  8. Instruct OFMEM that it is neither reasonable nor prudent to rely exclusively on industry risk estimates for the selection of reference accidents used in determining off-site emergency measures. Independent experts and international best practices should guide OFMEM planning decisions.
  9. Require a plan to ensure safe drinking water in the event that a nuclear disaster contaminates the Great Lakes.
  10. Mandate that future updates to the PNERP Master Plan or Implementing Plans be posted to the Environmental Bill of Rights registry for public comment and transparent input from municipal councils.

Your government is being negligent by failing to plan for worst-case nuclear accidents when half of Ontario lives in the shadow of a nuclear station.

It is the government’s responsibility to protect public safety by making Ontario’s nuclear emergency plans the most robust in the world, or at the very least, in line with international best practices.

Minister, I know you take your responsibilities seriously. It is time to do the right thing by strengthening Ontario’s nuclear emergency plans.


Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario

You can submit your own comment via our easy form, due Friday July 28.