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.

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