Tag Archives: Fukushima Daiichi

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Being Prepared for the Unexpected: The Nuclear Industry is Disaster Ready

In 2011, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded opened-up the sea floor and sent a wall of water rushing along the Japanese coast knocking out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Images of the devastation made international headlines and raised concern over the safety and preparedness of nuclear power plants in the event of a disaster.

Recently, the government of Ontario announced that it is updating the province’s nuclear response plan. It will have a very solid and impressive basis on which to build.

Although the risk of a tsunami-induced accident at Canada’s nuclear power sites is close to non-existent, being prepared for the unexpected has been at the core of the nuclear industry’s commitment to safety. In fact, within a year of the Fukushima accident, Canada’s nuclear operators took additional steps, including a full-scale emergency exercise that was hosted by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) at its Darlington operations. The exercise brought together emergency responders from all levels of government and OPG, to test accident readiness.

Safety is a crucial pillar of success, and that is why the industry continues to add new measures to existing emergency response plans. As one example, OPG installed flood barriers to protect low-lying equipment in the event of a severe weather disaster. During the Fukushima event, an explosion took place because of a buildup of hydrogen. So OPG installed passive autocatalytic recombiners to limit the risk of a buildup of hydrogen should a leak ever occur.

Bruce Power, Ontario’s other nuclear generator, has built upon its safety foundation post-Fukushima, making additional investments in a suite of back-up generators and fire trucks. A new Emergency Management Centre, equipped with its own back-up power supply was also set up, and last October Bruce Power hosted 500 people from over two dozen agencies to take part in a week-long emergency preparedness drill called Exercise Huron Resolve.

This week-long exercise involved various industry partners and government including The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, The Ontario Provincial Police, The Ministry of Labour’s Radiation Protection Services and OFMEM’s Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, which is based in Toronto.

Outside of Ontario, in New Brunswick, the Point Lepreau nuclear plant recently conducted  two large-scale emergency response exercises. A two-day simulation, in 2015, was conducted in partnership between NB Power and New Brunswick’s Emergency Measures Organization and this past May the company teamed up with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to run through security emergency response exercises.

It is important to point out that, prior to Fukushima, nuclear emergency response plans were already in place. In fact, the nuclear industry’s commitment to emergency planning has been in place since the operation of nuclear power plants began, over fifty years ago. Since that time, operators have continued to build upon best practices.

While the geography of Canada makes it highly unlikely that an earthquake and ensuing tsunami, like the one that swallowed the Japanese coast, could ever occur here, we know that we must invest and demonstrate our commitment to planning and preparing for the unexpected. Our people are our number one asset, living and working in the communities they serve. Keeping our communities safe isn’t just part of our job it’s part of our community responsibility. One that we take pride in.

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Fukushima Fish Safe to Eat

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Albacore Tuna
Albacore tuna.

You may have heard media reports about concerns regarding fish contaminated by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown migrating to the North American west coast.

The truth is, scientists in British Columbia have found no noticeable radiation in fish on Canada’s west coast as a result of Fukushima and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has found no cause for concern but continues to monitor the situation.

“The radiation levels we can attribute to Fukushima are essentially not visible,” Simon Fraser University nuclear scientist Kris Starosta recently told Global News.

“What I do see is effects from the weapons tests and natural radiation. That has been there before Fukushima.”

Even North American studies that have found some contamination related to Fukushima has found those levels to be negligible.

A study this year by Oregon State University made a comparison that put some perspective on the fish fear factor.

The researchers found that while Albacore tuna caught off the coast of Oregon had elevated levels of radiation as a result of Fukushima, the increase was so minute that you would have to 700,000 pounds of the fish with the highest radiation levels just to get the same dosage as you would going about your day-to-day life over a year.

“A year of eating albacore with these cesium traces is about the same dose of radiation as you get from spending 23 seconds in a stuffy basement from radon gas, or sleeping next to your spouse for 40 nights from the natural potassium-40 in their body,” Delvan Neville, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University and lead author on the study, said in a press release.

“It’s just not much at all.”