As KI pill orders skyrocket in the wake of a Star story, critics say Ontario’s nuclear emergency response plan desperately needs a post-Fukushima update.
For 44 years, the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station has operated just five kilometres from Toronto’s eastern edge. The Darlington Nuclear Generating Station sits just over 30 km away. While these plants are essential for keeping the lights on in Toronto, councillors are only just beginning to question the city’s readiness for a nuclear emergency.
On Dec. 1, the city’s executive committee asked the city manager to report back on issues with the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan, Toronto’s own nuclear emergency response protocols and whether it might be appropriate to expand distribution of potassium iodide (KI) pills beyond the current 10-km radius.
In October, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which operates both Pickering and Darlington, mailed KI pills — which, taken in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, can reduce the risk of thyroid cancer — to 200,000 homes and businesses within 10 km of the GTA’s two nuclear power plants.
Anyone living within 50 km of the two plants — an area inhabited by more than 4.5 million people, including the entire city of Toronto — can order them free from preparetobesafe.ca. While just over 600 orders had been placed before a Nov. 10 Star story on KI pills, nearly 11,000 additional orders were made by Nov. 15.
The province’s position:
“(I)n a recent study, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) determined that the PNERP would adequately and effectively address a Fukushima type incident.”
Drinking water dangers
“Millions of people get their drinking water from Lake Ontario, but there’s no credible plan on how to deal with tap water contamination in the event of a nuclear accident,” says Greenpeace Canada’s senior nuclear analyst, Shawn-Patrick Stensil.
Both the Darlington and Pickering nuclear power plants sit next to Lake Ontario, and so do three aging nuclear power plants in upstate New York. According to environmental advocacy group Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, nine million Canadians and Americans rely on the lake for their drinking water. Many would be without alterative sources in the event of severe radioactive contamination.
Read more at Is Toronto ready for a radiation emergency?