Fermi II

Distribution of KI pills “steady,” town may look to other methods to distribute the rest

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The first two days of the potassium iodide (KI) pills distribution went well but similar events may be needed to distribute the rest.

Over 150 households picked up their KI pills, with those households being in the “primary zone,” which is defined as being within a 16.1-kilometre radius of the Fermi II nuclear power plant. In case of a nuclear incident, residents in the primary zone would be instructed to take the pills, as those pills would help fend of the possibility of thyroid cancer for people exposed to radiation.

“It’s been going steady,” said fire chief Bruce Montone, who is also the community emergency management co-ordinator (CEMC).

The KI pills were distributed in partnership with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) May 7-8 at the Libro Centre. As part of the package people in the primary zone received, they got a box with 20 KI pills, with the three-day supply of pills being good through 2026.

There are 400 or so households in the primary zone, Montone said, so another method of getting the pills to the remaining residents will be devised. That could include door-to-door delivery or another session like what occurred May 7-8 where people can go to a location like the Libro Centre and pick them up. Montone indicated there could be a combination of methods.

“We got some people in and out quickly,” he said. “Other people had lots of questions.”

Most questions were able to be answered easily, Montone added. He emphasized that pills are only to be taken if instruction is given to take them. People were also given a booklet with information about the pills and what to do to plan for an emergency.

Jean Meloche (left) obtains her KI pills from Windsor-Essex County Health Unit officials Lori Adams and Karen Lukic.

Montone said people in Amherstburg should always have an emergency kit on hand just in case any type of emergency should occur. That includes two litres of water per person, prescription drugs, non-perishable food items, cash, a battery-operated radio and personal documentation.

Should the emergency sirens go off, people are asked to go inside and listen for instruction.

“Whatever we tell you to do, that’s what we need you to do,” he said.

Once the primary zone is taken care of with KI pills, people in the secondary zone will be planned for as locations would have to be secured in the 80-kilometre radius for people to attend to get the pills.

The first phase of the plan is about $370,000 and that is funded through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Montone also addressed the emergency notifications – or in many cases, lack thereof – to people’s cell phones last week. He acknowledged it didn’t work out well in parts of Ontario like this region and parts of Quebec and he said that reinforces his belief there is a need for two methods of notification.

Amherstburg has the “Amherstburg Alert” system and Montone believes it was a “wise decision” to implement that as that is a local solution, that would coincide with any provincial or national notification method.

“It just illustrates the importance of local capabilities,” he said.

Those wishing to sign up for “Amherstburg Alert” can do so at www.amherstburg.ca/alert or call the Amherstburg Fire Department for information at 519-736-6500.

Fire chief enthused after meeting minister regarding nuclear program

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s fire chief and emergency management co-ordinator is pleased after leading a delegation to Queen’s Park last week to discuss Amherstburg’s nuclear plan.

Bruce Montone, deputy fire chief Lee Tome and town clerk Paula Parker travelled to Toronto last Wednesday evening to meet Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Marie-France Lalonde and Montone came away happy with the meeting.

“It was awesome,” Montone told the River Town Times last Friday. “She was attentive and kind. She challenged some of our issues and that gave us an opportunity to provide additional information, which she seemed to appreciate.”

Montone said he was encouraged by the meeting and the Amherstburg delegation was told that if they don’t hear anything from the province within three weeks, they can contact the minister’s office. He said the town wants to be on a level playing field as any other Ontario municipality that has a nuclear plant nearby.

“Our meeting focused on five specific areas,” said Montone. “The overarching message is that we want to be treat equitably.”

Funding was “at the top of the list” with discussions taking place on the types of assistance that could be available to the town. Montone added they spent “a great deal of time” discussing the roles and responsibilities the province and town will have under the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan (PNERP).

“There’s quite a lot of changes in who is responsible for what,” he said.

There will also be work on a new “concept of operations” with the province and they  also will be working with the Ontario government on a revised Fermi II implementation plan. The latter has not been updated since 2009, said Montone.

The Town of Amherstburg’s nuclear plan was the subject of a recent meeting with Minister Marie-France Lalonde.

Amherstburg’s public alerting system was also spoken about as enhancements are required, the fire chief added, and public education was also raised during the meeting in Toronto. The Ontario government will also enter into a new agreement with Fermi II, Montone stated.

“The province is going to undertake a new agreement between the State of Michigan, DTE (the owners of Fermi II) and the province,” said Montone. “We talked about how we can collaborate and be involved in the process.”

The word “collaboration” was emphasized by Montone on how the relationship with the Ontario government will be going forward.

“I’m really happy,” Montone said of the meeting. “We covered a lot of ground.”

The meeting had been scheduled for 45-60 minutes but lasted over two hours, he added, and Lalonde was “extremely patient” and gained “a robust understanding of all the challenges” that Amherstburg faces.

“I’m very comfortable when I tell you that the province and her ministry are going to work closely in the near future to get us where we need to be,” Montone stated. “I’m very, very optimistic going forward.”

While there could be movement to resolve some of Amherstburg’s outstanding issues, Montone cautioned that fixing them completely will take time.

“We can’t fix this overnight,” he said. “It’s been this way since 1998.”

While Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and CAO John Miceli were unable to join them for the meeting, Montone said the group that did go to Queen’s Park had their full support. He added there was a debriefing of the meeting with Miceli last Thursday.

Local nuclear plan discussed with province, more meetings to come

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Emergency officials in Amherstburg recently held a meeting with the province to discuss its nuclear plan with more questions arising from the meeting.

Bruce Montone, Amherstburg’s fire chief and emergency management co-ordinator, met with provincial officials recently to discuss the plan and how the Ontario government can support the municipality.

“It was a positive discussion,” said Montone. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time.”

The discussion centered mainly on the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan (PNERP) and the differences between the 2009 version and the new one.

“There’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” he said.

Montone indicated there are indications the province will take on monitoring and decontamination responsibilities in the event of an incident, but added there are still questions on how that would be rolled out.

“The challenge is how are they going to handle this,” said Montone.

There are concerns over the timeline of events should an incident happen, noting it could take upwards of 12 hours to get to Amherstburg. The support could be in the form of expertise and there are also questions on how it could be funded.

There are also challenges regarding public notification and alerts. The sirens will need improvements, Montone indicated.

“Our current system is quite old and requires upgrades,” he said.

Portions of the primary zone can’t hear the sirens, Montone added. Cost is also a factor as is who is going to fund it.

The Fermi II nuclear power plant gives $25,000 to support annual emergency planning efforts in Amherstburg. However, fire chief and community emergency planning co-ordinator Bruce Montone is calling for help from the provincial government.

The potassium iodide (KI) pills are another issue that has to be resolved, he stated. KI pills help prevent the development of thyroid cancer, and are effective at safeguarding children’s thyroid glands and Montone said those pills would be on the way soon. The plan is for all residents in the primary zone to get a KI pill with people in the secondary zone eligible to receive one upon request.

The town is working with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) on providing the pills to the town.

“The KI pills have been ordered. We expect them sometime in early March,” said Montone. “We’re working on how they are going to be distributed.”

The WECHU ordered the pills through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Montone said, and have a shelf life of ten years. Who pays for replacing them is another issue.

“Those kinds of logistics have to be worked out,” said Montone.

Fermi II, which has a different type of reactor than the Canadian nuclear plants, will be getting involved in the implementation planning including the Ministry of Transportation’s traffic plans. The latter plans also involve the town and neighbouring municipalities.

The January meeting was a good one, he suggested, but there is more work to come.

“My overall impression is positive but there are many more unanswered questions,” stated Montone.

There will be another meeting with Minister Marie-France Lalonde later this month, he added.

“We will continue to raise our issues with her,” said Montone.

The town’s plight for support of its nuclear emergency plan was also discussed last week as part of the TVO program “The Agenda.” The show is available through the network’s website at www.tvo.org with the direct link being https://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/is-ontario-prepared-for-a-nuclear-emergency.

Amherstburg fire chief calling for province to step up assistance for nuclear emergency planning

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A recent report from Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk highlights many of the issues that officials in Amherstburg have also been raising about the town’s needs in relation to nuclear preparedness.

The town’s fire chief and community emergency management co-ordinator has also taken notice of the report and is further pressing the province to help out.

Bruce Montone said Amherstburg receives $25,000 from the Fermi II nuclear facility in nearby Monroe, Michigan. However, Montone is calling for the province to do much more and help contribute to the town’s planning needs and training as he stated the $25,000 from Fermi II is not nearly enough.

“Frankly, it barely pays for our public alerting system,” said Montone.

Montone was pleased that the auditor general’s report validates many of the concerns Amherstburg has with regards to living next door to a U.S.-based nuclear facility. He said he is not looking for a “Cadillac emergency response plan” but wants increased funding and resources to assist the town should a nuclear emergency happen.

“It’s a provincial responsibility, not a municipal responsibility,” the fire chief stated.

Other costs that have to be covered include the KI pills, equipment, ongoing training, public education and research.

“I could go on and on and on,” said Montone.

The town is even battling over the size of the “primary zone” in case of a nuclear emergency. He said it is currently 23 kilometres but face a recommendation to reduce that to 16 kilometres. The reason for that, Montone was told, was “that’s what it is in the U.S.”

Reducing the size of the “primary zone” impacts hundreds of people, he added.

Montone compares Amherstburg with Kincardine with Kincardine being near the Bruce nuclear facility. Kincardine receives $105,000 annually from the province, said Montone, and additional resources from the plant itself.

The Fermi II nuclear power plant, pictured last Sunday afternoon from the side of Front Road South, gives $25,000 to support annual emergency planning efforts in Amherstburg. However, fire chief and community emergency planning co-ordinator Bruce Montone is calling for help from the provincial government.

“Who is coming to help us?” said Montone. “Nobody is coming. That’s who is coming.”

Other municipalities such as Windsor aren’t in a position to offer additional help, the chief added, because they would be busy assisting their own residents.

There has been “zero” progress with the Ontario government, Montone continued.

“We have been in communication with the Premier’s office, the ministry’s office and staff from the province,” said Montone. “All we get is lip service and ‘we’ll talk to you soon.’ I’m done talking and the auditor agrees with us.”

Montone added that “we need help” and that “we are going to keep pushing until we do.” He encouraged others to contact area MPP’s to highlight this issue and make sure the Ontario government moves forward to ensure protective measures are in place.

According to the auditor general’s report: “Some neighbouring U.S. states have nuclear power facilities that could require an emergency response within Ontario. Yet Ontario municipalities that may be affected by the nuclear power facilities receive little assistance from the Province, in contrast to Ontario municipalities that may be affected by nuclear power facilities located inside the province — even though such assistance is a requirement of the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan.”

It adds: “Municipalities located near in-province nuclear power facilities receive assistance with the pre-distribution of thyroid blocking pills (KI pills), practice tests, and funding from the nuclear power companies to assist with their emergency management programs and response training. While the nearby U.S. power company provides some funding to one municipality, the municipality does not think it is adequate to support its nuclear emergency program. In addition, the municipality told us that EMO also does not provide much support or assistance with regard to nuclear emergencies. As a result, it and other municipalities located near out-of-province nuclear facilities are left to fund much of their own emergency preparedness and response activities, even though off-site nuclear emergencies are the Province’s responsibility.”

The recommendation contained in Lysyk’s report states “that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services through the Provincial Emergency Management Office use independent nuclear expertise at all times to assess nuclear risks, plans and response strategies; develop agreements with the Ontario nuclear power companies that state the requirements and deliverables for all parties; develop agreements with the U.S. nuclear power companies that state the requirements and deliverables for all parties; and provide the same level of support and assistance to municipalities regardless of whether a nearby nuclear facility is located inside or outside the province.”

The provinces response states that “(t)he Ministry agrees with the Auditor General’s recommendation, and recognizes the need for independence and clarity in its arrangements with the nuclear power companies, and for the need for all municipalities affected by nuclear facilities to receive the same level of support from the Province. To improve the independence of its nuclear expertise, the Ministry has staffed the Senior Scientist position. The Ministry is in the process of updating the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan, and as part of the development of the site-specific implementing plans will develop agreements with ministries, Ontario and U.S. nuclear power companies, and affected municipalities. These agreements will outline clear deliverables, support, outcomes and performance measures.”

In June, town council passed a motion that called for the province to supply similar levels of public safety and funding that other municipalities in the province with Ontario-based nuclear plants receive as well as having the Ontario government fund the distribution of potassium iodate (KI) pills to where they are needed within Amherstburg as well as those who want them.

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a senior energy analyst with Greenpeace, was at that June meeting along with Theresa McClenaghan from the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). Stensil told the RTT last Thursday that the report was validation of the town’s concerns as well as the concerns of Greenpeace.

“This shows the concerns of Amherstburg and Greenpeace are valid and it shows the government isn’t doing its job to protect residents,” said Stensil. “I think when you read between the lines, it’s quite damning.”

There are problems with compliance and with a lack of resources within the ministry, Stensil believed. He hoped the report will “push the province out of its complacency” and get action for local residents. He said that support should be sustainable and not just a “one-off” for Amherstburg.

Stensil also called on residents to press elected officials and staff with the province to ensure more gets done.

“We need to watchdog our own government to make sure it does its job,” said Stensil.

Town wanting strengthened nuclear protection, gets allies in process

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town of Amherstburg’s bid for strengthened nuclear protection and a better nuclear plan from the province got a shot in the arm from Greenpeace Canada and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

Town council passed a motion that the two organizations helped the town craft earlier in the day Monday that calls for the province to supply similar levels of public safety and funding that other municipalities in the province with Ontario-based nuclear plants receive as well as having the Ontario government fund the distribution of potassium iodate (KI) pills to where they are needed within Amherstburg as well as those who want them.

Potassium iodate tablets are used at the time of a nuclear emergency with the aim being to stop the thyroid gland taking up radioactive iodine.

The town is also seeking better protection for vulnerable citizens like seniors and children and that the Ontario nuclear plan be updated with more transparency, particularly when dealing with local municipalities.

Shawn-Patrick Stensil from Greenpeace Canada said he and Theresa McClenaghan from CELA were before council “in the spirit of co-operation” and that they want public safety strengthened in case of a nuclear emergency. Stensil said “there is little public scrutiny of this file” but wanted backing from municipal partners like Amherstburg to help improve emergency response in a more timely manner.

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Lessons were learned after the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan.

“A key lesson from Fukushima is we need to prepare for a larger accident,” said Stensil.

Believing that southwestern Ontario is often left out of the conversation because nuclear plants near this area of the province are actually in the United States, including Fermi II, Stensil said that must change.

“All Ontarians deserve the same level of public safety,” he said, adding that Windsor-Essex County has “been given less attention” than other areas of the province that are near an Ontario-based nuclear plant.

McClenaghan said the provincial nuclear plan needs to be updated in order to deal with larger scale disasters like Fukushima or Chernobyl and that vulnerable residents need better protection.

“We want the province to require an action plan for seniors and children in primary and secondary zones,” she indicated.

McClenaghan added there are no provisions for protection of drinking water. She also said that southwestern Ontario has been “overlooked” and that a transparent public review be done of the process.

Stensil added that costs of such protection and KI pill distribution should not be borne by the municipalities as the province is responsible for public safety.

Deputy Fire Chief Lee Tome said “it’s been an uphill battle the last 20 months” but indicated some inroads are being made in updating the town and provincial nuclear plan. He said the town is in negotiations with the province on “a number of issues” and said the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has been very active in trying to get funding for KI pill distribution.

Amherstburg receives $25,000 from Fermi II towards its nuclear plan but not much else, Tome added, and welcomed McClenaghan and Stensil in efforts to work with the town. Tome added the town is “definitely underfunded” as compared to other municipalities in Ontario with a nuclear plant nearby.

Tome added a disturbing issue he has found out is that there has never been any sort of agreement reached between the Ontario government and Detroit Edison, which operates Fermi II.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale believed the town is “moving forward” and credited the Amherstburg Fire Department for its work in trying to finally make something happen.

“I see a big change coming,” said DiPasquale. “I can feel it.”

Councillor Diane Pouget credited residents Paul Hertel and Lynwood Martin for work they’ve done in the past to promote nuclear safety, adding there used to be greater involvement with the province.

“It’s as if we don’t exist any more,” she said.

The town’s motion will be circulated with the province, area MPPs and local municipalities being among the groups and organizations receiving it.