Ontario cancels nuke exercise, blames SARS

Stephen Salaff
Electricity Daily Volume 20, Number 74
April 17, 2003

Blaming the spread of the nasty SARS respiratory virus, the Canadian province of Ontario recently postponed its long and quietly planned simulated nuclear emergency exercise at the 4,328 MW Pickering nuclear plant of Ontario Power Generation Inc. on Lake Ontario east of Toronto. Pickering is located about six miles east of the nearest boundary with Toronto. According to Ontario officials, a “full-scale provincial nuclear emergency exercise” was officially planned for Pickering on Tuesday, April 29. The exercise was recently postponed “due to the SARS atypical pneumonia emergency and the full involvement in managing the SARS outbreak of the Provincial Operations Center and the Emergency Operations Center of Durham Regional Municipality,” said Bill Fox, assistant chief planner at Emergency Management Ontario, a unit of the provincial Ministry of Public Safety and Security.

Fox added that the new date of the nuclear simulation exercise has not yet been selected, but will be the subject of consultation among the province, Durham Region and OPG. The original date of this exercise was disclosed in the six-year “Provincial Annual Nuclear Exercise Schedule 2003-2008” provided to Electricity Daily by Emergency Management Ontario. The six-year forecast calls for successor exercises in 2004 based at the U.S. Enrico Fermi 2 nuclear plant owned by Detroit Edison, near the Ontario border; and then at OPG’s Darlington station in 2005 and the Bruce nuclear plant of Bruce Power in 2006. Prior to the cancellation, none of the initial partners in the Pickering exercise were willing to provide interviews on the event.

John Earl, OPG media relations manager, explained in late March: “We cannot provide an official announcement of the Pickering exercise because the province controls the exercise and not OPG.”

Canadian nuclear watchdog groups are concerned about not being told of the cancelled exercise. “The unacknowledged stakeholder in nuclear emergency planning in Canada is the community of NGO environmental and nuclear concern groups,” said Norm Rubin, director of nuclear research and senior policy analyst at Energy Probe in Toronto. “We are a basic and stable part of Canadian reality,” Rubin said. He formerly served on the technical advisory committee to Emergency Management Ontario, and wishes to continue in that role, except that the committee “has apparently not met in years.”


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