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More time to deal with nuclear response changes, region says

Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Regional council has offered more than a dozen recommendations in response to proposed revisions to the province’s nuclear emergency preparedness plan.

The Liberal government recently released a discussion paper regarding potential updates to the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Preparedness Plan (PNERP) and is currently seeking feedback from municipalities and other stakeholders before July 14, 2017.

At their June 14 meeting, councillors formally endorsed a report penned by director of emergency management Warren Leonard in response to the provincial plan.

Included in the 13 recommendations forwarded to the province is a request to consider extending the deadline for comments to Sept. 30 to allow “municipalities and citizens to provide meaningful input”.

Ajax Councillor Colleen Jordan suggested the extension when the report was previously brought forward to Committee of the Whole.

“I think the timelines are not conducive to getting out our concerns,” Jordan noted at that time.

Regional council is also requesting the province deliver on a 2013 commitment to commission a study on the potential impacts of a major nuclear accident on the Great Lakes and drinking water sources, as well to develop necessary contingent planning for such an event.

Another recommendation challenges the provincial government to “recognize the public’s expectation for world-class public safety, meeting or exceeding international best practices where feasible, in an open and transparent process, with a recognition of the need for enhanced protection of vulnerable communities.”

These recommendations echoed the sentiments from representatives of three environmental groups, Durham Nuclear Awareness (DNA), the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and Greenpeace Canada, who addressed council earlier this month.

The unified message presented from those groups was the proposed revisions to the PNERP don’t do enough to guard Ontarians.

“In particular, we are concerned that large parts of Durham Region are not protected and falling through the cracks,” says Theresa McClenaghan, CELA executive director.

The groups argue that Durham Region faces “unique challenges” not addressed in the PNERP, as the region has a rapidly growing population located in close vicinity to 10 reactors at the Darlington and Pickering nuclear stations.

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a senior energy analyst with Greenpeace Canada said challenging the province to strive for the highest standards possible in its plan would stop “complacency”.

“[It] forces authorities to look worldwide where people are doing better and strive for that,” he said.

Janet McNeill of DNA also indicated there is always more than can be done when it comes to emergency preparedness.

“Fukushima showed us how dangerous it is when complacency lulls people to sleep. Lack of proper emergency management led to some tragic and avoidable consequences there,” McNeill said.

The groups have pointed to the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan as the measuring stick when it comes to nuclear emergency preparedness. They criticized the PNERP for being based on a potential accident of a much lower scale than that of Fukushima.