nuclear plan

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.

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.