Fermi II

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.

Town updating nuclear plan, hopes for more help

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town of Amherstburg is updating its nuclear response plan but is trying to overcome issues, some of which revolve around funding, due to the town’s unique situation on the subject.

The plan hadn’t seen major updates since its creation in 1998 and deputy fire chief Lee Tome said there had to be “a significant number of changes” to it. He said the province put out a proposal for updates to its Ontario-wide nuclear plan and the town is trying to get in line with that.

“Amherstburg is an anomaly because the nuclear facility is in the United States,” Tome said, in reference to the Michigan-based Fermi II nuclear plant.

Work continues with the province on getting the necessary funding for Amherstburg with Tome adding that the town doesn’t have the luxury of having a nuclear facility that can send resources to Amherstburg in case of an emergency. That differs from other municipalities with nuclear plans as those municipalities are near plants that are also in Ontario.

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Tome said the town is looking at increasing funding to ensure the appropriate equipment and training is obtained.

“We’re hopeful once the changes to the provincial plan are made we’ll be able to then solidify our plan,” said Tome.

There has been no full nuclear exercise since 2004, he added.

Fermi II does contribute $25,000 annually for the town’s nuclear plan but more is needed, so the town is seeking other funding sources – including senior levels of government – to help. Tome said they did receive nearly $40,000 in funding for monitoring equipment from Health Canada.

Local taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for the plan, he believed.

“We are slowly making progress,” said Tome. “The issue is who is going to pay for the program on a go-forward basis.”

The town is also working with the medical officer of health on the issue of potassium iodine (KI) pills for those in the “primary zone,” the zone that would be within 16 kilometres of Fermi II. Talks are underway with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as to who will fund the pill distribution. KI pills would assist those who take them in preventing their thyroid gland in absorbing radioactive material.

Residents of Amherst Pointe would be in the primary zone with Tome adding Boblo Island will also be included as to the island’s unique access circumstances.

“What we’re looking at here is having the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care fund KI pill distribution,” said Tome.

Tome added that it is not mandatory that Amherstburg residents receive KI pills, but they want to be proactive and ensure residents stay as safe as possible. Anyone else who requests a KI pill should be able to get one, Tome believes.

“We feel our residents deserve KI pills,” he said.

The primary zone would be reduced from 23 km to 16 km, Tome added. He said no one he or anyone else at the fire department has spoken to can find where the 23 km figure came from. The 16 km limit would align with the U.S. plan, he said.

Town looking at updating nuclear plan, looking for aid in paying costs

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town is updating its nuclear plan and while it has revised what the “primary zone” would be in case of an accident at Fermi II, they are also looking for aid in helping to pay associated costs with the plan.

The town agreed to amend the “primary zone” from 23 kilometers to 16 kilometers (ten miles) of the Fermi II nuclear plant in Michigan with that distance aligning with the current U.S. standard. The town’s motion also calls for the plan to be amended with the assistance of the province and that new negotiations between the province, town and Detroit Edison for the purchase of securing additional funding and support for the town be supported. The town will also correspond with surrounding municipalities, as well as Essex MP Tracey Ramsey and Essex MPP Taras Natyshak on the matter.

Deputy Fire Chief and emergency plan co-ordinator Lee Tome said he has been reviewing the town’s plan since last October and said “there were a number of differences” between the province’s plan and the town’s plan. The change from 23 km to 16 km was to keep with industry standards, said Tome, and that it actually still exceeds the provincial requirement which is 10 km.

The 23-kilometre figure was one they didn’t understand the source of, Tome added.

“No one could tell us why we were at a 23-kilometre zone,” said Tome.

The town receives $25,000 from Fermi II but the town wants more in order to ensure ratepayers no longer have to pay for associated costs. Other areas in the province near nuclear facilities receive more in funding than does Amherstburg, it was learned during Monday’s meeting, though other plants are within Ontario.

“I believe Fermi will step up and assist us,” said Tome.

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The amended nuclear plan is an enhancement, said Tome, who added he believes the town is still is in good shape should there be any sort of accident in the immediate future. He said a recent tabletop exercise did identify “a number of gaps” in the plan but expressed confidence in the town’s ability to deal with a nuclear event.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she wanted to ensure residents are notified should an accident happen with Councillor Rick Fryer said he can hear sirens from Michigan during emergencies and wanted improvements like that to Amherstburg’s system.

Reverse 911 is no longer an option, noted Tome, and that a mass notification call-out system would be considered but that carries a $10,000 annual price tag. As for who pays that, “it should not be the town of Amherstburg,” said Tome. Social media and other notification systems would also be used in the case of an emergency, he added.