Over 40 public interest organizations are calling on the Wynne government to fill gaps and fix flaws in Ontario’s nuclear emergency plans that leave people vulnerable in the event of a nuclear accident on the Great Lakes.
“With more than half of Ontarians living near a nuclear station that could be harmed in the event of a nuclear accident, Ontario is unprepared for a large nuclear emergency on the Great Lakes,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a Senior Energy Analyst with Greenpeace.
The organizations, including farmers, nurses, and environmental groups, have sent a statement to the Minister of Community Safety, Marie-France Lalonde, laying out expectations for addressing gaps in the province’s current emergency plans.
The groups say current emergency plans put Ontarians at risk by failing to plan for large-scale evacuations in the Greater Toronto Area, to provide alternative sources of drinking water if the Great Lakes are contaminated, and to plan support for vulnerable communities following a large-scale accident.
“Until the government makes the prudent decision to close Ontario’s nuclear plants, the province must reduce the grave risks of nuclear power to our population by developing a comprehensive nuclear emergency plan. Nurses must be full partners in that planning because so much of the responsibility for care in the event of a disaster lies with us,” says Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario CEO, Doris Grinspun.
Although the Minister of Community Safety committed to higher levels of public engagement on nuclear emergency response in 2013, the government has since effectively blocked public scrutiny and chosen to consult with reactor operators behind closed doors.
To counteract the influence of industry lobbying, the organizations are calling on the government to apply its Open Government policy to nuclear emergency planning and require regular public reviews, including accident modeling to assess the adequacy of offsite emergency response.
After consulting with industry since the Fukushima disaster six years ago, the government requested public comments on proposed changes to nuclear emergency response on Monday. The groups say the proposed changes provide no real increase to public safety.
“Planning for worst-case scenarios is essential to responsible emergency planning and achieving the safety of people and families. We urge Premier Wynne to put in place robust and world-class nuclear emergency response plans that protect us all,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).