Nuclear Terror

Tom Adams
Energy Probe
September 28, 2001

Dear Concerned Citizen:

A successful terrorist attack at a Canadian nuclear reactor could kill tens of thousands of people and cause untold damage and suffering. An attack on the Pickering nuclear plant could poison Lake Ontario, making its water undrinkable for the 6 million people who now depend on it, and it could require the permanent evacuation of the Greater Toronto Area.

From our own inspections of various facilities, and from our knowledge of the nuclear industry, we know that Canada’s nuclear plants are not secure and that the industry’s own risk assessments assume zero probability of terrorist attack. After the horrific hijackings in the US, we confirmed with Canadian aviation authorities that flights, including low level flights, over the Pickering and Darlington nuclear plants, continue to be permitted. There are no technical impediments to restricting air space. Low-level flights over the Toronto Zoo, for example, are prohibited.

An attack from the air is only one of many possible scenarios. In a letter we sent September 15 to Prime Minister Jean Chretién, his minister of defence, and his solicitor-general, we outlined several highly vulnerable aspects of the Candu nuclear system and other nuclear facilities in Canada. Some of these involve our direct knowledge of vulnerable entry points. For security reasons, we cannot provide you with details, but we can say that terrorists would not need great sophistication to conduct an attack with unimaginable consequences. Only the military has the capability to protect our plants against some of the tactics available to terrorists. In our September 15 letter, we also explained how unique characteristics of Canada’s nuclear program may have allowed terrorists access to intimate knowledge of our nuclear weaknesses and could, in future, allow them access to Canadian nuclear reactors themselves.

Energy Probe has studied the security of Canada’s nuclear plants for 25 years, and has many times expressed concern about them to the public, to authorities, and to the courts. Nuclear plants are horribly inviting targets, not only for terrorists but also for other combatants should Canada ever find itself at war. For such reasons, the US and USSR military both tried to stop their governments from building nuclear plants during the Cold War.

Our nuclear plants can be made much more secure and, we believe, they must. We are hopeful that the military and other law enforcement officials have taken our advice, and put in place measures to prevent the most awful of consequences.


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