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Groups raise alarm about lack of protection in event of nuclear disaster

June 12, 2017, CTV Windsor

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Environmental groups say the province is failing to protect Windsor-Essex residents from a possible nuclear reactor accident in neighbouring U.S. states.

“We live in the shadow of American nuclear reactors and so far the provincial government isn’t adequately protecting public safety in southwestern Ontario,” said Derek Coronado, executive director of the Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario.

Residents of Windsor and Essex County live within 100 kilometers of the Michigan-based Fermi and Ohio-based Davis-Besse nuclear stations and could be harmed in the event of a major nuclear accident, the groups say.

They are concerned about a discussion paper published by the Ontario government last month that recommends against strengthening public safety and nuclear emergency preparedness in response to the Fukushima disaster.

The groups say the province has also dragged its feet on distributing potassium iodide (KI) pills in the region which would protect people from thyroid cancer in the event of a nuclear accident. The pills were delivered to more than 200,000 Ontarians living near Ontario-based reactors in 2015 and are available free-of-charge to anyone living in the Greater Toronto Area.

“The province has been giving short shrift to public safety in southwestern Ontario. This needs to change in light of the Fukushima nuclear accident,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a senior energy analyst with Greenpeace Canada.

More than 40 public interest organizations recently released a position paper calling on the Ontario government to fill gaps and fix flaws in Ontario's nuclear emergency plans that could leave Ontarians vulnerable in the event of a nuclear accident on the Great Lakes.

A spokesperson from the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety says the provincial nuclear emergency response plan ensures Ontarians are safe in the extremely unlikely event of a nuclear emergency.

Brent Ross tells CTV Windsor the plan has never been activated but is reviewed every four years. He adds the government is incorporating lessons learned from past nuclear emergencies like the disaster in Fukushima.

The provincial government is accepting comments from the public on its discussion paper until July 14.

Residents can do so on the government's website.

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