nuclear plan

Fight for support of nuclear plan reaches Queen’s Park

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The fight to get provincial support from the province for the town’s nuclear emergency plan reached Queen’s Park last week.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak questioned Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Marie-France Lalonde about the level of support – or lack thereof – Amherstburg receives for its nuclear emergency plan in the Legislature last Wednesday. In attendance that day were Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone and deputy fire chief Lee Tome.

Montone believed things went well and hopes to hear from the province in the new year.

“From our perspective, it was handled extremely respectfully,” said Montone.

Montone stated Lalonde came across and chatted with both himself and Tome after the session and “we raised a number of concerns with her.” The fire chief added he believed Lalonde gained new information through the talk and that staff from the province will come to Amherstburg to further discuss the issues.

Following the adjournment of the Legislature for the day, Montone, Tome and Natyshak had a media availability in Toronto where they discussed the issue, including what the provincial and municipal responsibilities are. Montone said in addition to financial aid, the town needs scientific support and training support so that local emergency officials can stay current on the issue.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak (left) listens as Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone discusses the town’s nuclear emergency response plan during a press conference in Toronto last Wednesday afternoon. (photo courtesy of the Amherstburg Fire Department)

“I was very optimistic when I left Queen’s Park (Wednesday) afternoon,” said Montone. “I certainly felt it was worthwhile. For me, I think it was very useful.”

Montone praised Natyshak for his stance on the issue and the way he advocated for Amherstburg and the region.

“He was very professional yet very firm in his support for us as were all of the local MPP’s,” said Montone. “Taras took hold of the issue and he certainly made (Wednesday’s events) happen. All the credit goes to him for creating the opportunity.”

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs has also lent their support to Amherstburg’s cause.

“We’re getting support and acknowledgement from all kinds of areas,” he said.

Montone hopes to have further discussion and meetings with staff and provincial officials early in 2018.

In the Legislature Wednesday, Natyshak said the recent report from the auditor general “made it clear this Liberal government is not prepared to manage a major emergency in the province” and questioned when support can be expected locally.

“When will this Liberal government provide the same level of support to the town of Amherstburg as it does for other areas that receive assistance in the province?” he asked.

Lalonde replied that the province can and will act in cases of emergencies and that a new emergency action plan is being launched, one that will expand emergency management capacity between U.S. states and other provinces.

“None of this addresses the issues of Amherstburg,” responded Natyshak, noting the town has been raising questions since 2015. He accused the ministry of “effectively ignoring” the concerns of the town.

“Will the minister tell the House when people in Amherstburg and the entire region of Essex County can expect the same resources and assistance so they can plan to be as safe as other designated communities in Ontario?” asked Natyshak.

Lalonde replied that nuclear power has been a “backbone” of power in Ontario for 40 years and that the province is willing to work to enhance planning and training.

Natyshak noted the Fermi II nuclear generating station is located approximately 16 km away from Amherstburg. Windsor, Essex County and Amherstburg have all passed motions calling for stronger nuclear emergency response.

“Local leaders have been speaking out for years — calling for the Liberal government to finally wake up and realize that they are leaving southwestern Ontario municipalities to fend for themselves should catastrophe strike. It’s time for the Wynne government to finally take responsibility for emergency management and provide southwestern Ontario communities with the support they need.”

Natyshak told the RTT Friday that “this issue has been escalating to the level of crisis in that every day that goes by is a day that the community of Amherstburg is left vulnerable.”

The issue is now on the province’s radar, Natyshak added.

“They can’t ignore this issue any longer,” he said.

The town has a plan but needs funding and additional supports. Like Montone, Natyshak has optimism that the province is going to come to the table and work with the town. It’s an issue that needs about $100,000 in provincial dollars in addition to the other support.

“This isn’t going to break any budgets at the province,” said Natyshak, adding he is looking for parity in comparison to other municipalities that have a nuclear plant nearby.

The NDP MPP also noted the audience he, Montone and Tome had with the minister and they made it clear to her with the needs are. He called Montone “an incredibly knowledgeable person” and able to relay the town’s requirements to the province.

“It’s simply a matter of public safety,” he added. “We’ll keep fighting and keeping the pressure on. The ball is in their court.”

 

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.

Town’s nuclear plan gets assist from Enbridge

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s nuclear plan is being updated and a grant from Enbridge will help in case that plan has to go into effect.

Enbridge gave a $3,500 cheque to the Amherstburg Fire Department Wednesday afternoon as part of the company’s “Safe Community Program.” The program sees grants awarded to local first responders to purchase safety equipment, obtain professional training or deliver educational programs that help save lives.

“They are an excellent corporate partner,” fire chief Al Reaume said of Enbridge.

The $3,500 grant will specifically be used to purchase dosimeters, devices that measure radiation. Reaume said that an ideal reading is zero but if that number starts to rise, it means a person is absorbing radiation.

There will be one dosimeter purchased for each of the Amherstburg Fire Department’s nine vehicles.

“It’s a start,” said Reaume. “Ideally, we’d like to have one for every firefighter. That will happen over time as a budget item.”

Reaume said the existing nuclear plan features outdated contact information with some of the people listed having since retired. There are other issues with it as well.

Enbridge gave a $3,500 grant to the Amherstburg Fire Department as part of Enbridge's "Safe Community Program." The cheque was presented Aug. 17 and it will be used to purchase dosimeters to help keep firefighters safe in case of a nuclear event. The fire department is currently updating its nuclear plan. From left: assistant deputy fire chief Ron Meloche, fire chief Al Reaume, Enbridge general manager Ian MacRobbie and Enbridge senior community engagement advisor Suzanne Shea.

Enbridge gave a $3,500 grant to the Amherstburg Fire Department as part of Enbridge’s “Safe Community Program.” The cheque was presented Aug. 17 and it will be used to purchase dosimeters to help keep firefighters safe in case of a nuclear event. The fire department is currently updating its nuclear plan. From left: assistant deputy fire chief Ron Meloche, fire chief Al Reaume, Enbridge general manager Ian MacRobbie and Enbridge senior community engagement advisor Suzanne Shea.

“It was contradictory in many areas,” said Reaume, noting there are references to a 16-kilometre evacuation zone and a 23-kilometre evacuation zone.

“It’s a matter of updating it and working with the province,” he said.

While there is a cost to updating the plan, Reaume said the department believes that should be covered by others.

“We feel Amherstburg should not have to absorb any of the costs,” he said.

That funding should come from the province or the Fermi II nuclear plant in Michigan or both. Meetings have already been held with the province with another meeting to be set up with Fermi II officials.

“Fermi has been extremely co-operative,” said Reaume.

Part of the plan also involved medicine known as “KI pills” which is potassium iodide that assists in blocking radiation from being absorbed by the thyroid gland. If it was pre-distributed in case of a nuclear emergency, it would involve only about 300 homes within a 16-kilometre primary area, Reaume said.

Plans are still be formulated for how to deal with the area outside of the 16-kilometre zone.

The entire plan is being modeled after other municipalities in Ontario with similar plans, as Reaume indicated there is “no need to re-invent the wheel.”

Despite the planning, Reaume said he doesn’t want to alarm the public, noting there have been no incidents in the past.

“It’s just a precaution,” said Reaume. “Nothing has ever happened to date. This is just a precautionary measure. We are just doing our due diligence.”

The town did a tabletop emergency exercise in the spring and Reaume said a full exercise is planned for next year. He noted LaSalle and Essex would be impacted by a nuclear event as well and have been asking for an exercise for several years “so we’re going to” have one.

Ian MacRobbie, general manager with Enbridge, said “Safe Community Program” is designed for just that, to keep communities safe. He said similar grants have been made in previous years for such things as gear, boots and pagers.

“We have a great relationship with (the Amherstburg Fire Department),” said MacRobbie.

Describing working with the fire department as “a wonderful fit,” MacRobbie said that Enbridge is happy to continue that partnership. He added that the company, which operates the Amherstburg Solar Farm locally, has sponsored the Roots to Boots Festival in 2012, the Sails to See Festival in 2013 and is an ongoing sponsor of the River Lights Winter Festival.