Large-scale emergency exercise gets underway for people living near Point Lepreau nuclear plant

FREDERICTON – It’s a situation many in the province don’t want to think about, but over the next two days New Brunswick Power, in consultation with the province, will conduct a large-scale emergency response exercise to prepare for a nuclear emergency at Point Lepreau Nuclear Generation Station.

As part of the licence to operate the generating station, they must conduct an emergency response exercise every three years. This year, the exercise involves residents in the area, businesses and schools.

“We’re going to see a lot of movement of people in the St. George, Saint John area, schools, health care,” said public safety minister Stephen Horsman.

Everyone within a 20 kilometer radius would be evacuated in a real emergency.

READ MORE: Canadian nuclear power plants completing upgrades prompted by Fukushima disaster

Minister Horsman gave details on what people can expect, adding they will be working with the RCMP and Ambulance NB.

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Greg MacCallum, Director of New Brunswick’s Emergency Measures Organization, said that residents in the area have been notified of the exercise and about 200 of them have volunteered to take part.

They will be evacuated from their homes, along with any pets and brought to a reception centre.

Students and staff at Fundy Shores School in Dipper Harbour will also be evacuated, he said, adding they will be bused to a nearby school.

“That representative group will enable us to test all those control measures all the way through to including a reception centre, established, set-up to receive them, to register them, to provide for their needs,” MacCallum said.

He added the goal of the excercise is to make it as real as possible.

EMO staff have been preparing for more than 18 months for the exercise, including setting-up a mock decontamination area at the generator in September.

Gaetan Thomas, CEO at NB Power, told reporters that the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in 2011 was a major teaching point for the industry.

“We have done a lot of changes since [then],” he said.

“Tomorrow and Wednesday will be the first time we will experiment some of those procedures. We have the equipment in place; we have the mitigating equipment in place.”

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Point Lepreau underwent a multi-billion dollar project to upgrade it between 2008 and 2012. Part of those upgrades included adding back-up generation and its own water supply to keep the reactor cool in an emergency.

Though, on Monday, Minister Horsman stressed that it was unlikely to ever happen.

NB Power will also be testing plans related to grid reliability on the 18 and 19 of November.


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