Spotlight on Ontario public alerting systems
March 20, 2012
Local and provincial authorities have been testing and improving public alerting systems near the Pickering and Darlington nuclear power plants; the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is tracking progress towards meeting current provincial standards.
On March 28, the CNSC is holding a public meeting (PDF), available via webcast, to discuss the status of the public alerting system for the City of Pickering and Durham Region. Representatives from Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) will also be in attendance.
At the last meeting held in September 2011, Commission Tribunal members expressed concern that not all provincial requirements for nuclear emergency public alerting were met. Requirements mandate that practically 100% of the population in the 3 km radius (Contiguous Zone) from the power plants - both indoor and outdoor - must be warned of an alert within 15 minutes. Specific requirements are also in place for the 10 km zone (Primary Zone).
Following testing in recent years, local authorities confirmed that sirens and phone dialing systems were capable of alerting nearly 100% of people in the 3 km radius of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. Additional efforts are being deployed for the Pickering site to reach the same results. Local authorities plan to increase the number of sirens and purchase an additional telephone dialing system to speed up the dial-out process. Full compliance with the 3 km zone requirements is expected for October 2012.
EMO, Durham Region, Ontario Power Generation and the City of Toronto are now discussing strategies for meeting the 10 km zone requirements for the Pickering and Darlington sites. The CNSC will be keeping a close ear on the discussions, and intends on collaborating with authorities as much as possible, so as to ensure a common understanding and full integration of onsite and offsite emergency responses.
Testing has confirmed compliance with the 3 km zone requirements for the Bruce A and B Nuclear Generating Stations. The site is located in a rural area, with low population density. Efforts are being deployed to reach the same goals for the 10 km zone. AECL's Chalk River Laboratories is located on a large site, away from urban centers. EMO is still verifying compliance with requirements.
Lessons learned from Fukushima
Shortly after the accident in March 2011, the CNSC confirmed the safe operation of Canadian nuclear power plants (NPPs) and their ability to withstand external hazards. An action plan to further strengthen the safety of the facilities and taking into consideration all lessons learned from the event will be presented to the Commission Tribunal on May 3 (PDF). Enhancing emergency preparedness and response measures represent one of the pillars of this action plan.