Emergency Planning: DNA Letter to Durham Regional Council

<DNA Logo> May 27, 2014.

Re: Emergency Planning in Durham Region

Durham Region Councillors & Regional Chair:

We are deeply concerned that Durham Region is unprepared to adequately protect its citizens in the event of a major accident at the Pickering or Darlington nuclear stations.

Durham Nuclear Awareness (DNA) asks you as our regional representatives to take action to actively engage the citizens of Durham Region to ensure that our off-site nuclear emergency plans are designed to:

• protect the public in the event of a major accident • meet international best practices, and further and very importantly • be understood by the citizens of Durham Region.

As you may know, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is cooperating with an array of regional, provincial and federal agencies to conduct a three-day emergency exercise at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station between May 26th and 28th.

While somewhat useful, we worry this may be used as a public relations exercise to paper over the lack of public review of our nuclear emergency plans since the Fukushima accident in 2011.

DNA members have been calling on our federal, provincial and municipal authorities to publicly update our off-site nuclear emergency plans since 2012.

We have repeatedly stated that the planning basis for current off-site emergency plans addresses only small-scale accidents. This leaves Durham Region unprepared for a major accident at Darlington or Pickering.

To be better protected, we need to update the planning basis of our off-site emergency plans to address major accidents. Changing this key assumption will impact the scale and scope of the protective measures that need to be in place.

DNA members have raised this concern with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) – both during the public review of OPG’s proposal to extend the life of the Darlington nuclear station in 2012 – and again at the relicensing hearings of the Pickering nuclear station in 2013, but our concern has not been addressed.

Notably, a federal court has recently validated DNA’s concerns. The Toronto Star reports that Justice James Russell found the federal panel that reviewed OPG’s proposal to build new reactors at Darlington “...should have done more analysis of the possibility of an unlikely but catastrophic accident at the nuclear site...The accident risk should be weighed while the decision is still in the hands of the politicians, he ruled, not left solely to regulatory authorities.”1

Judge Russell’s ruling highlights an important weakness of emergency preparedness in Durham Region: OPG and government agencies have for too long failed to consider the impacts of major accidents. As a result, public and elected officials are deprived of the information necessary to make the decisions needed to better protect the public.

All this is to say, DNA is concerned that our government authorities have become complacent. We write to you now because we feel these authorities require firm direction and scrutiny from Durham Region’s democratically elected representatives.

DNA has also repeatedly raised concerns about inadequate emergency planning at meetings of the Durham Nuclear Health Committee (DNHC), but have seen no meaningful response.

Citizens in Durham Region (and the surrounding Greater Toronto Area, which also stands to be much affected in the event of a serious accident at either of Durham’s nuclear plants) deserve reassurance that plans for a nuclear emergency in the shadow of Pickering and Darlington will be reviewed and meet international best practices.

We should not pretend a major nuclear accident cannot happen here.

As Toshimitsu Homma of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency stated at an April 2013 international conference on Emergency Management held in Ottawa, the most important lesson of Fukushima was that before the accident, “There was an implicit assumption that such a severe accident could not happen and thus insufficient attention was paid to such an accident by authorities.”

DNA urges you to publicly review and consult on the adequacy of our off-site nuclear plans by engaging Durham citizens in a public discussion on these matters affecting public health and safety. DNA members would be happy to meet with any of you to discuss this further.

Respectfully submitted,

Janet McNeill On behalf of Durham Nuclear Awareness (DNA)

1 Cited in John Spears, “New reactor plan needs more work, court tells OPG,” the Toronto Star, May 15, 2014.

Cc. • All municipal Councils in Durham Region • Durham Emergency Management Office (DEMO) • Durham Nuclear Health Committee (DNHC) • Emergency Management Ontario, Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services • Provincial MPPs • Joe Dixon (Ajax-Pickering) • John O’Toole (Durham) • Helena Jaczek (Oak Ridges-Markham) • Jerry Ouellette (Oshawa) • Tracy MacCharles (Pickering-Scarborough East) • Bas Balkissoon (Scarborough-Rouge River) • Christine Elliott (Whitby-Oshawa)