KI: Truth or Lies?

  1. Wassup?

KI (potassium iodide) is being distributed right now within the 10 kilometre “zones” of the Pickering & Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations (PNGS & DNGS) – two very large nuclear generating stations (10 operating reactors altogether; 6 at Pickering, 4 at Darlington) located east of Toronto, Canada’s largest city.

Direction sign to Nukes
Direction sign to Nukes

<graphic shows distances from downtown Toronto>

(KI distribution is also happening around the very large Bruce nuclear station on Lake Huron.)

This is by order of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada’s federal nuclear “regulator.” More details below.

So, if you live in the 10 K “zone” around PNGS or DNGS, you will be receiving KI pills (by mail).

For the record, 2 things:

  • The DNA group was calling for KI pre-distribution back in 1997 (possibly even earlier) – specifically, for the emergency evacuation zones to be expanded from 10 K to 30 K, and for KI to be pre-distributed to everyone within the 30 K zone.
  • In New Brunswick, every resident has received KI in the 12 K “planning” zone, as well as within the 20 K “planning” zone of the Point Lepreau plant – since 1982 (they are delivered there door-to-door).

More “official” information about this program here.

KI Resources page on this site.

  1. Why KI?

Potassium iodide will protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine in the event of a nuclear accident. Children are particularly in need of this protection and particularly susceptible to thyroid cancer if not so protected.

Thus, having KI on hand in the event of a serious nuclear accident is a protective measure.

Having it ahead of time is essential, since during the disruption that inevitably follows a nuclear accident, obtaining KI pills is liable to be a low priority for citizens (& authorities) trying to cope with a plethora of other pressing challenges.

  1. Recent News About Thyroid Cancer – Japan

Last week Beyond Nuclear reported on recent studies about thyroid cancer incidence in Japan since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began on March 11, 2011.

Incidence is up dramatically, particularly in areas well west of the plant, where people were not evacuated.

Plenty of news about this on the Beyond Nuclear site here.

As well, the Toronto Star had an article about this recent research evidence.

KI pills were not distributed in Japan prior to the accident, nor at the time of the accident. A great many things went awry in the wake of the nuclear disaster. Evacuations were botched (including leaving people in what were known for weeks to be "hotspots)," orders to distribute KI fell between bureaucratic cracks, and overall, it is said, the “chain of command” in response to the nuclear disaster broke down.

(The posting ‘Fukushima: what really happened?’ has plenty of information about the disaster, as does the earlier posting ‘Fukushima: Emergency Planning? Failing Grade.’ Many quotes about the causes of the nuclear disaster can be found here.)

** Extremely important to note: thyroid cancer is not the only health impact possible. More on this below.

  1. Older News About Thyroid Cancer / KI Pills

As DNA members have learned from the American Thyroid Association 2014 brochure, KI proved to be pretty effective against thyroid cancer in Poland after the Chernobyl accident (April 26, 1986). According to this brochure, KI was distributed to more than 95% of the children within 3 days, & the rate of thyroid cancer “does not appear to have had an increase.” In Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, however, the children were not so fortunate. “As many as 3000 people exposed to that radiation developed thyroid cancer over the next 10 years. Most victims had been babies or young children living in Ukraine, Belarus and Ukraine.” “The region of excess risk extended up to a 200 mi radius from Chornobyl.”

Also mentioned: the cancers were “aggressive” & the associated health care costs continue to place a “heavy burden.”

In reading the book Voices from Chernobyl - The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (by recent Nobel Prize for Literature winner Svetlana Alexievich) I came across this comment about KI pills post-Chernobyl accident: “Those who could, got potassium iodide (you couldn’t get it at the pharmacy in my town, you had to really know someone).” <pg. 85> Not many could have taken it at the right time in any case, since the government failed to notify the citizenry until several days after the accident took place.

  1. The CNSC KI Directive – Fall 2014

Almost exactly a year ago (after much discussion, Fukushima “enhancements” to the Canadian nuclear plants, &, dare I say, public pressure) Canada’s nuclear “regulator” ordered that KI pills be pre-distributed to households within the 10 K “zone” of the country’s nuke plants.

(Discussing the "zones" around nuke plants is another whole topic. The zones are pretty much arbitrary, are designated by the industry itself for its own convenience, and, as we have learned from the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, radioactive plumes are certainly no respecters of man’s artificial boundaries, national borders or regional dividing lines. Radioactivity travels with the winds – far & wide & very unpredictably.)

So, at 4:01 pm on Friday, October 10th last year (the Friday of Canadian Thanksgiving, a long weekend here), CNSC sent out a news release about what they call REG.DOC.2.10.1 & the plan to distribute KI pills. They might have been aiming to miss the media with that late Friday afternoon release, but it didn’t work out that way, and there was a fair bit of media coverage that weekend & early the following week.

Then, 4 days later, on October 14th, CNSC sent out a message with this info: “Four independent third party studies explore and describe the benefits of distributing KI pills in advance to citizens within a 30-mile (48 kilometres) radius of a nuclear power plant, and the need for timely and correct consumption of these pills in the case of a nuclear accident.

The studies indicate such preventative measures can greatly reduce the accumulation of radioiodines in the thyroid gland, as well as the resulting radiation dose. This is an essential measure, since thyroid cancer –, most specifically in children and infants – is one of the most frequently observed consequences of a nuclear accident.

The studies also highlight the need for appropriate administrative policies and increased research on the topic of children and infant consumption of KI pills, to better understand both the effectiveness and the safety of these measures.

Read the studies:  <end of quote from CNSC message>

Note: the media apparently did not receive this info. This was sent merely to the many of us who are on an information list for CNSC messages. Interesting that the press got the 10 K info … but not the info about 10 K probably being insufficient.

Hmmmmmm.

  1. Switzerland

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the nuclear regulator did modelling to assess the likely impacts of a Fukushima-scale (International Nuclear Event Scale or INES Level 7) nuclear accident.

They carried this out transparently (in stark contrast to CNSC’s “severe accident study” debacle; the severe accident study that was clearly NOT a severe accident study – all thoroughly laid out in the posting ‘Severe Accident Study. Oops. Not really!), and concluded by sending out KI pills to all Swiss citizens within a 50 K radius of their nuke plants. Info on this here (en français).

The American Thyroid Association, btw, recommends pre-distribution to 50 miles (not kilometres) & comments “No one can predict how far a radioactive iodine cloud might spread” & recommends 3 levels of coverage. Check out the brochure for yourself here.

It also notes that the WHO (World Health Organization) endorses KI distribution and that France, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland “not only stockpile KI but predistribute KI to their populations.”

Finally, this brochure states under the heading ‘How Should KI Be Incorporated Into an Overall Emergency Plan?’ “KI is an adjunct to evacuation, sheltering (staying in an unventilated room with the doors and windows closed), and avoiding contaminated food, milk, and water. KI should not take the place of any other protective measures.”

  1. Note! A very important note

In all the hoopla surrounding this discussion taking place in Durham Region these days, it would be very easy to lose sight of a highly important fact: thyroid cancer is not – not by a long shot – the only possible/likely health consequence from exposure to radiation following a nuclear accident.

There are myriad others. Note links below in the Resources section for information about health consequences – not just of exposure following an accident, but from “routine” emissions from nuclear plants.

2nd note: As just stated above, KI does not constitute emergency planning! With all the fuss being made by CNSC, OPG, Ontario’s health ministry and the Durham Region Health Department, a person could be fooled into thinking something of substance is taking place here. Really, it is not!

KI is an “adjunct” and “should not take the place of any other protective measures.”

KI will not prevent an accident from happening. It will assuredly not make you "safe."

It will also not protect you (or your loved ones) against the many other possible health consequences if an accident does take place. Nor, of course, from so-called Routine Releases.

  1. Conclusion & Resources

I hope it’s becoming clear that it's probably a pretty sensible idea to develop a healthy skepticism about claims made by the nuclear industry (& our “authorities”) regarding so-called nuclear “safety” & official readiness/preparations for a nuclear accident (the latter, we note, meaning “off-site” emergency response, being a provincial, regional and municipal responsibility).

If you’re not convinced yet of the need for a little digging, please look through the list of recent postings on this blog that you’ll see over to the right-hand side of the page.

Relevant Resources

CHERNOBYL LINKS

Darlington Hearing: Weigh in ... & watch!

CNSC Hearing: Nov. 2-5, in Courtice (west of Bowmanville). ** NOTE: You can watch the hearing via Webcast. Go to www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca to find out how. (Allow yourself a few minutes to sort this out. You may have to fiddle a bit & click on several links before you get to the right spot. There should be a link on the upper right side of the main CNSC page.)

*** DNA's written submission to CNSC

What's It About? Why is this Licence a Bad Idea?

OPG (Ontario Power Generation) is asking for a 13-year licence to refurbish (i.e., rebuild) & continue operating 4 reactors at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station (DNGS) -- at huge public expense.

There are many reasons to speak up about this “life extension” project & the 13-year licence:

  • Building these reactors will cost Ontario taxpayers a fortune! At least $10 billion. Probably way more. Heck, the project is already costing us a fortune.
  • Who knows if they will be finished safely & on time? (In 2009, 500 Bruce Power workers were exposed to alpha radiation during refurbishment activities there. Much more could be said about this; feel free to dig around on the topic! Nasty.)
  • OPG’s past licences have never been for more than 2-5 years. Thus, this request is unprecedented.
  • Such a long licence is not necessary; other reactor operators in Canada have neither requested nor been granted such a long term. Bruce Power went through a licensing hearing earlier this year at which they asked for, & were granted, a 5-year licence for similar activities, i.e., refurbishment & continued operation.
  • A licence of this length is a way of reducing public scrutiny over OPG’s operations at Darlington.
  • If DNGS gets a 13-year licence, members of the public would not have the opportunity to oversee what is going on at the plant until 2028. Public hearings allow citizens to review OPG’s operations, and to ask questions. This ensures that OPG remains accountable to its host community.
  • Regular re-licensing hearings allow the public & independent CNSC commissioners to scrutinize both OPG operations & CNSC staff oversight of OPG.
  • Reduced public scrutiny can increase the risk of an accident if OPG & CNSC staff are not regularly – and publicly – held accountable for their actions.
  • Without accountability & transparency, reactor operators & regulators can become complacent, ignoring their responsibilities to ensure public safety. This is often referred to as “regulatory capture.”
  • This is what occurred at Fukushima. Lack of proper scrutiny & oversight (proper regulation) led to the Fukushima accident, assessed to be a “man-made” accident (you can check out this posting for many relevant quotations about the causes of the Fukushima accident).
  • Emergency planning in Durham Region/the Greater Toronto Area is gravely inadequate in the event that a serious accident occurs. The plans have been made under the assumption that only a mild accident with a minor release of radioactivity would take place. All explained more thoroughly here & here. Bottom line? Residents of Durham Region/the GTA are not safe to assume they'll be well protected in the event of a serious nuclear accident.
  • Most citizens of Durham Region & Toronto actually don't have a clue what they would do if an accident did take place. People are not well-informed.
  • We don’t seem to be able to count on Canada’s nuclear “regulator” to tell us the truth about nuclear safety, nuclear studies, & so on. The Harper government has turned a nuclear watchdog into a lapdog.
  • Canada’s nuclear regulator claims its staff has conducted a “severe accident study” that indicates a “serious” accident wouldn’t really cause too much of a problem. Problem is, the study is not what it claims to be … not at all. Best to read the previous post to get the lowdown.
  • Nuclear refurbishments create (literally!) tons of new nuclear wastes. We all know there is nowhere safe for any of that stuff to “go.” Plenty of detailed info on that topic here.
  • It just doesn’t seem that OPG’s plans for Darlington are worth the risk.
  • You know what? I haven't even mentioned Lake Ontario, & what nuke plants do to the bodies of water they are located on. Holy smokes. Major omission. The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper site has some recent info; why not check that out? For sure, Lake Ontario takes a bit hit from this plant. Nor should we be risking the drinking water source for millions of people. Nosirree.

WHY Weigh In?

Those of us experienced with nuclear hearings & nuclear industry dealings find the CNSC doesn’t pay much attention even when a very large number of people tell them their licensees & licensees' plans can't be trusted. I say this advisedly, having taken part now in 10 hearings over the past 9 years.

Why do we keep showing up at CNSC hearings when the CNSC doesn’t really seem to be listening?

Because we need to get other people to listen!

Municipal / regional / provincial politicians – who can exert pressure on the Premier of Ontario.

It is up to Ontario’s Premier to sign off on this refurbishment project.

Politicians at the Durham (& Toronto) municipal / regional / provincial levels should speak up on our behalf (& their own!) because

  1. They live here too, so they're just as much at risk as you & I.
  2. It’s their job & responsibility to protect the citizens who put them there (& who, also, btw, pay their salaries!)
  3. It’s dangerous that so few people & so few politicians are paying attention to serious nuclear risks & seriously deficient nuclear emergency planning.

Nuclear accidents are happening around the world at the rate of one every 10 years. There is no way under these circumstances that OPG should be permitted to operate behind closed doors for 13 years.

Emergency Planning Deficiencies

Current provincial emergency plans are built around the assumption of a minor accident in which no large release of radioactivity takes place immediately. Unsafe, unreasonable assumptions.

Plans for a serious accident, then, are not robust.

In Durham Region, what this means is that DEMO (Durham Emergency Management Office) is only really prepared for the evacuation of people in the immediate vicinity of the plants (Pickering or Darlington).

Not for a big accident – a Level 7 on the INES (International Nuclear Event Scale) – like the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters. Where tens of thousands of people needed to be evacuated … quickly.

DNA has been working to inform local politicians about these gaps & deficiencies, & it seems to have sunk in (with some, anyway) that most people really actually have no idea what to do if a serious accident happens.

We Canadians are so polite, though, aren’t we? Polite to a fault. So polite we do not safeguard our own … safety.

We need Durham Region’s politicians to come right out & say very clearly to the Province: “Dudes. We’re right here at Ground Zero if a serious accident should happen. Doesn’t look to us like emergency plans here are very … robust. You gotta do something about this!”

Heck, even nuke agencies IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), which exists to both promote and regulate nuclear energy; yes … & ICRP (the International Commission on Radiological Protection) have clearly stated that emergency plans need to be clearly communicated to members of the public before any emergency takes place, or they will not be of much use! (Previous post goes into detail on all this.)

Finally…

You need not be a rocket scientist, nor possess a Ph.D., to speak clearly & concisely to the CNSC & express your lack of support for this refurbishment/life extension/13 year licence.

Short & sweet (well, no need to actually be sweet) will do nicely. From the heart is always best!

Just note down the things that irk or concern you the most, & fire it off by midnight on Monday, September 28th. Once again, details on making a submission are right here.

Recent postings:

Please take a look through recent postings on this site for relevant, related information. Each posting lists many additional resources at the end, should you be keen to learn more.

Direction sign to Nukes
Direction sign to Nukes

<these distances from downtown Toronto>

Quotes Related to Nuclear Emergency Planning/Fukushima accident

** note on May 25 & July 31/15: I keep adding to these! ** Sept. 15/15: this list is now also available as a "page" running across the top of the site

“A major factor that contributed to the accident was the widespread assumption in Japan that its nuclear power plants were so safe that an accident of this magnitude was simply unthinkable. This assumption was accepted by nuclear power plant operators and was not challenged by regulators or by the Government. As a result, Japan was not sufficiently prepared for a severe nuclear accident in March 2011.” [August 2015 Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Foreword by the Director General]

Toshimitsu Homma of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency stated in April 2013 at an international conference on Emergency Management (held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) that 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.”

"The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 were natural disasters of a magnitude that shocked the entire world. Although triggered by these cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response." - Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Chairman of The official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (Pg. 9)

"A “manmade” disaster: The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly “manmade.” We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual. (see Recommendation 1)" -- from The official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (pg. 16)

"The government, the regulators, TEPCO management, and the Kantei lacked the preparation and the mindset to efficiently operate an emergency response to an accident of this scope. None, therefore, were effective in preventing or limiting the consequential damage." — from The official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (pg. 18)

“The Commission has verified that there was a lag in upgrading nuclear emergency preparedness and complex disaster countermeasures, and attributes this to regulators’ negative attitudes toward revising and improving existing emergency plans.” – from The official report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (pg. 19)

“Evacuation zones/planning are inadequate all over the world.”2013 comment by Dr. Maureen McCue (M.D., Ph.D.), Physicians for Social Responsibility

“…What part of Fukushima don’t you understand? If you don’t make the modifications [re: safety & emergency planning] you run the risk of destroying the fabric of a country. It happened at Chernobyl, and it’s happening right now in Japan…” – Arnie Gundersen in a (4-minute) March 27/14 interview, discussing the 3rd anniversary of Fukushima accident (March 11/11)

Re: Failure to hand out KI Pills in Japan: ``In interviews with The Wall Street Journal, several national and local government officials and advisers blamed the delay on a communications breakdown among different government agencies with responsibilities over various aspects of the disaster.

They also cited an abrupt move by the government shortly after the accident, when local officials raised sharply the level of radiation exposure that would qualify an individual for iodine pills and other safety measures, such as thorough decontamination.

"Most of our residents had no idea we were supposed to take medication like that," said Juichi Ide, general-affairs chief of Kawauchi Village, located about 20 miles from the plant. "By the time the pills were delivered to our office on the 16th, everyone in the village was gone." <from Wall St. Journal article, quoted in Watershed Sentinel> ** underlining mine

“Complacency and hubris are the worst enemies to nuclear safety.” -- Najmedin Meshkati, an engineering professor at USC who worked on the National Academy of Sciences July 2014 report that was reported on in the article below

Nuclear plants ill-prepared for worst-case scenarios, report says

Former PM of Japan: "Before the Fukushima accident, with the belief that no nuclear accident would happen as long as the safety measures were followed properly, I had pushed the policy of utilising nuclear power," he wrote. "Having faced the real accident as prime minister, and having experienced the situation which came so close to requiring me to order the evacuation of 50 million people, my view is now changed 180 degrees." – Naoto Kan, Former Prime Minister of Japan (From this article ‘Japan's former PM tells of Tokyo evacuation risk after Fukushima’)

More from former PM Naoto Kan: “In spite of the various measures taken in order to prevent accidents, it is technically impossible to eliminate accidents, especially if human factors such as terrorism are taken into account. Actually, it is not all that difficult to eliminate nuclear power plant accidents. All we need to do is to eliminate nuclear power plants themselves. And that resolution lies in the hands of the citizens.” – from the article ‘Encountering the Fukushima Daiichi Accident’

The Fukushima nuclear accident was the result of “human error in which people failed to make the proper preparations.” – Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan

“They’re protected against nuclear accidents – unless an accident actually happens.” – David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists, speaking in March 2013 at Helen Caldicott Symposium on 2nd anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.

Gregory Jaczko, former head of the U.S. NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission): "We have defined safety measures against the things that we kind of know. An accident is going to be something that we didn't predict," he said [in this article]. ** Jaczko, as the article explains, resigned as Chair of the NRC in 2014, & now campaigns for a global nuclear phaseout. He is one of the many people interviewed in the 2015 documentary 'Indian Point.' (on Facebook here)

“It was a journey to hell without a map.” – Kai Watanabe, 27-year old maintenance worker at Fukushima plant who believed “Duty comes first.” (quoted in Strong in the Rain – Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster)

From the Introduction in Fukushima – The Story of a Nuclear Disaster, by David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman, Susan Q. Stranahan, and the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“The story of Fukushima Daiichi is a larger tale, however. It is the saga of a technology promoted through the careful nurturing of a myth: the myth of safety. Nuclear energy is an energy choice that gambles with disaster.

Fukushima Daiichi unmasked the weaknesses of nuclear power plant design and the long-standing flaws in operations and regulatory oversight. Although Japan must share the blame, this was not a Japanese nuclear accident; it was a nuclear accident that just happened to have occurred in Japan. The problems that led to the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi exist wherever reactors operate.

Although the accident involved a failure of technology, even more worrisome was the role of the worldwide nuclear establishment: the close-knit culture that has championed nuclear energy – politically, economically, socially – while refusing to acknowledge and reduce the risks that accompany its operation. Time and again, warning signs were ignored and brushes with calamity written off.” <Page vii> Fukushima – The Story of a Nuclear Disaster, by David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman, Susan Q. Stranahan, and the Union of Concerned Scientists

“What Dr. Gerstein shows is that reasonable people, who are not malicious, and whose intent is not to kill or injure other people, will nonetheless risk killing vast numbers of people. And they will do it predictably, with awareness … They knew the risks from the beginning, at every stage … the leaders chose, in the face of serious warnings, to consciously take chances that risked disaster … Men in power are willing to risk any number of human lives to avoid an otherwise certain loss to themselves, a sure reversal of their own prospects in the short run.” – Daniel Ellsberg, quoted in the Marc Gerstein book Flirting with Disaster - Why Accidents Are Rarely Accidental  (also quoted by Arnie Gundersen in the Greenpeace report Lessons from Fukushima )

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Boxer Mike Tyson

** Great long quotation about the value of biennial emergency exercises in later posting here.

** (Recent) YouTube: 18 minutes on four common issues/problems demonstrated by the Three Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl & Fukushima accidents (narrated by former nuclear industry exec/engineer Arnie Gundersen, who worked for the nuclear industry at the time of the Three Mile Island accident)

Nuclear “Regulatory Capture” — A Global Pattern

 

Nuclear Emergency Planning: Did You Know?

** On March 11, 2011 a major nuclear accident took place in Fukushima, Japan. 146,000 people were told to evacuate in a 20-kilometre radius around the plant. 270,00 people remain away from their homes in northeast Japan since the tsunami/earthquake/nuclear disaster. A study carried out by the Japanese Parliament concluded in 2012 that the cause of the nuclear accident was “man-made” and cited collusion between the nuclear regulator and TEPCO. In April 2013, Toshimitsu Homma of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency stated at an international conference on Emergency Management held in Ottawa that 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.”

The Nuclear Emergency Scene in Durham Region

1. A very large number of agencies are involved in nuclear emergency planning. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the (federal) Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) have responsibilities for on-site emergency response, while off-site emergency planning is the responsibility of the Province of Ontario. Within Durham Region, the Durham Emergency Management Office (DEMO) is responsible for implementing provincial plans. With the dauntingly large number of federal, provincial, regional and municipal agencies involved, there is a very real risk of bureaucratic mix-ups in the event of a major accident. Such mix-ups occurred both in Ukraine following the Chernobyl accident, and in Japan following the Fukushima accident.

2. Sufficiently detailed plans for a serious nuclear emergency do not currently exist. Plans currently in place under the PNERP (Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan), the TNERP (Toronto Nuclear Emergency Response Plan) & the DRNERP (Durham Region NERP) are for a smaller accident, not for a Chernobyl or Fukushima-style major accident or very large radioactive release. The emergency exercise carried out at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in May 2014 involved more than 50 agencies – but no members of the public – and was not planned around the possibility of a major accident.

3. The Ontario and federal governments have failed to review & revise the Province’s nuclear emergency plans to address accidents involving large radiation releases since the Fukushima nuclear disaster took place in March 2011.

4. Most citizens are ill-prepared to respond to a serious nuclear emergency – even those who live close to one of Durham’s two large nuclear generating stations. Current measures requiring personal emergency preparedness and/or possible evacuation are neither well-detailed nor widely understood ... nor widely communicated. For example, most citizens are not aware that they are responsible for making their own evacuation arrangements in the event of an emergency (even if they don’t own a vehicle), what means of transportation to use if they don’t own a car, or how to effect family reunifications. (See article here.)

5. “Sheltering in place” (i.e., staying where you are when you are notified of a nuclear accident) may be an early instruction, but in the case of an actual release of radionuclides from a nuclear power plant, most ordinary houses will not provide adequate protection from all exposures, again stressing the need for effective evacuation planning. Evacuation plans and routes and locations of evacuation centres are not familiar or known to people in Durham Region or the Greater Toronto Area in general, who might have to evacuate quickly in the event of a serious nuclear accident at Pickering or Darlington.

6. The Province of Ontario determines the “zones” of notification in which public alerting after an accident & the distribution of potassium iodide pills (see below), must be carried out.  These zones are both arbitrary and inadequate, and in no way reflect the distances over which radiation may in actuality travel, or where dangerous hot particles may ultimately land.

7. Potassium iodide pills (known as KI pills) must be taken as soon as possible after a major radioactive release in order to prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine, possibly later resulting in thyroid cancer. This is an important action to reduce the risk of damage to the thyroid gland, but is only effective if taken at the right time (i.e., just before or at the very beginning of a radioactive release). It must be noted that KI does not prevent the absorption of a host of other radioactive isotopes that could be released to the air and unwittingly breathed in, and so, as already outlined, effective evacuation is also key.

8. Regulations about the distribution of KI pills are currently under federal review in Canada. In some countries (e.g. France and Switzerland) they are pre-distributed to all households within 10-50 km of a nuclear plant. The CNSC is recommending that regulations around KI pills be changed, and that KI be pre-distributed to all citizens within the 10-kilometre zone of any major nuclear facility. Ontario’s provincial government (which is in charge of Ontario’s off-site nuclear emergency plans) does not appear to be in support of this initiative. (See recent Toronto Star article here.)

9. On June 17th & 25th [2014] , Durham Nuclear Awareness made presentations & asked members of Durham’s Regional Council to advocate on behalf of its citizens for world-class nuclear emergency plans, and to ask the provincial government to conduct transparent public consultations with Durham Region and its citizens on revisions to the province’s nuclear emergency plans. (The text of our June 25th powerpoint presentation can be found here.)

References: