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.

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