Pickering Nuclear Generating Station emergency alert issued in error, investigation launched

WATCH ABOVE: A provincial investigation is underway after an emergency alert was issued “in error” Sunday morning about an “incident” at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, sparking angst among some Ontarians. Morganne Campbell has more in this report.

Ontario’s solicitor general says an investigation has been launched after an emergency alert was sent out “in error” Sunday morning regarding an “incident” at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.

“The alert was issued in error to the public during a routine training exercise being conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre,” Sylvia Jones, the province’s solicitor general, said in a statement.

“There was no incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station that should have triggered public notification. Nor was there ever any danger to the public or the environment.”

Jones said emergency exercises are a “critical component” of ensuring preparedness for emergency management and response agencies.

“At first glance, it would suggest that something went wrong during a test that happens twice a day to ensure the system is ready when we need it,” she added in a later interview with Global News.

“Ultimately, I want to make sure that we have a system that is improved as a result of this error … We need to find out what has occurred.”

In a statement, Ontario Power Generation chief nuclear officer Sean Granville confirmed the alert was sent during a routine exercise and that the plant was “operating as designed.”

Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan said he was “very surprised” when he first received the alert, but quickly learned from other officials that it was an error.

“I’m very angry and very concerned that this has occurred,” Ryan told Global News.

“We’ve demanded a full investigation and I’ve had confirmation from our local MPP that an investigation will be undertaken. We’ll understand what has happened, why, how and what’s going to be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Pickering-Uxbridge MPP Peter Bethlenfalvy said in a statement he would work to ensure residents are updated on what happened.

“Public safety is always the primary concern in dealing with nuclear operations, but similarly important is public confidence and communications,” he said.

The official emergency alert cancellation was sent out almost two hours after the initial message.

The emergency bulletin, which was sent out shortly after 7:20 a.m., said it applied to people within 10 kilometres of the facility. The plant is located on Montgomery Park Road beside Lake Ontario, west of Brock Road.

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“An incident was reported at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station,” the alert said.

“There has been NO abnormal release of radioactivity from the station and emergency staff are responding to the situation.”

The bulletin also said people “do not need to take protective actions at this time.”

A second alert was sent just after 9:10 a.m. to say there isn’t “an active nuclear situation” taking place at the facility.

Ted Gruetzner, the former vice president of corporate relations and communications at OPG, said while testing is conducted “all the time,” normally a message like the one that was sent would be identified as a test.

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“Typically in tests you put, ‘This is a test,'” he said.

“Clearly this was an internal communications thing that went public, went much broader than it should have been.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Coun. Jennifer McKelvie, who represents the Toronto ward that’s beside the Pickering border, echoed the call on social media for an investigation.

Pickering-Uxbridge MP Jennifer O’Connell said on Twitter that “the lack of clarity and information to the public is unacceptable.”

“In the event of an actual emergency, we deserve clear and timely information,” she wrote.

— With files from Daina Goldfinger and Ryan Rocca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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