Today marks the third anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Three years later, this plant continues to teeter on the edge of disaster with painfully slow progress to stabilize the reactors and to control vast amounts of radioactive water flowing through and around them.

Today, over 430,000 tons of highly radioactive water is estimated to be stored at the Fukushima site in some 1,000 + (often leaking) storage tanks. Still to come is the very tricky removal of molten, highly radioactive fuel from Units 1-3 and then the dismantling of the wrecked reactor buildings themselves. Meanwhile, 100,000 people are still displaced from their homes, likely never to return.

But it could never happen here, right? Well, it’s certainly a long shot that a tsunami would slam into the Pickering or Darlington Nuclear Stations. But that is far from the only way things can go awry at a nuclear plant. Don’t forget:

  • The world’s first civilian nuclear accident occurred in Ontario at the Chalk River facility in 1952. It took two years to clean up the aftermath of a hydrogen explosion combined with fuel and radioactive cooling water leaks.
  • Four reactors at the Pickering plant were shutdown in 1998 after a scathing safety review of the plant found numerous problems. One of the issues was inadequate emergency shutdown systems, exactly the kind of problem that led to the disaster at Fukushima.

Now Ontario Power Generation (OPG) wants to run Pickering for another five years despite the fact that the plant will reach the end of its design life this year. We think they should shut it down instead. Consider that Pickering is also a giant money loser – one of the most expensive to operate nuclear plants in North America.

Fortunately, our neighbours in Quebec have a growing surplus of clean, safe water power that we could import at a much lower cost than power from Pickering or a rebuilt Darlington, both on Lake Ontario, less than 50 kms from Toronto. It’s time to tell Premier Wynne to be sensible and opt for Quebec imports over risky gambles on aging nuclear plants.

You can hear more about the lessons Ontario should learn from Fukushima tonight. OCAA Chair Jack Gibbons will be talking about how Ontario can avoid a nuclear disaster (both environmental and economic) in an “ Oss Talk” at The Ossington, 61 Ossington Ave., Toronto, starting at 7 p.m. If you can’t make it, we’ll post a recording on our website in a few days.

– Angela Bischoff

P.S. For more on Fukushima, see my latest No Nukes Newsletter.