May 13, 2014

Mock nuclear accident test emergency response 3 day exercise the 'largest ever held in Ontario'

"This is the largest nuclear disaster response ever held in Ontario," said Dan Hefkey, deputy minister with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

The drill will take place from Monday, May 26 to Wednesday, May 28, and residents may see emergency vehicles near the plant and hear alerting sirens as the exercise unfolds.

Dubbed Exercise Unified Response, the event will test emergency response plans and see how agencies and governments work together. None of the agencies involved will know the nature of the "accident" until it starts.

Glenn Jager, chief nuclear officer for Ontario Power Generation, said if there was a real-life emergency at a nuclear station, "no one agency can handle it on its own."

This is the first "multi-jurisdictional exercise since 1999," Mr. Jager said. "All eyes will be watching. It's an opportunity to demonstrate and learn."

Mr. Hefkey noted there will be more than 1,000 participants from more than 50 federal, provincial, regional, municipal, hospital, and school board organizations working with OPG.

"You have to appreciate this will be huge in terms of organization. Everyone wants to see how they will respond," Mr. Hefkey said.
 "It will make us that much better in the future," Mr. Hefkey said. "Ontario is the largest nuclear jurisdiction in North America and one of the largest in the world. Ontario has more nuclear generating units than California.

"We're wedded to safety. We never take safety for granted. We all have to plan," Mr. Hefkey said. "It's an unlikely scenario, but one we must consider."

OPG spokesman Neal Kelly said planning for the exercise has been ongoing for more than a year.

Ted Wieclawek, fire marshal and chief of emergency management Ontario, said the exercise is about building trust with the public.

"We want to raise awareness and build public confidence," Mr. Wieclawek said. "If we don't instill that confidence, then they will be insecure."

That confidence is needed whether it's an incident on a highway, a tornado or a nuclear accident, he added.

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