Ukraine war prompted Canada to update its plans for a nuclear catastrophe – National

Canada is reviewing and updating its emergency procedures to deal with fallout from a possible tactical nuclear exchange in Europe and the spread of radiation into the ocean from a power plant explosion in Ukraine.

The measures include updating top-secret plans to ensure the federal government can continue to function even during a severe crisis, according to Canadian domestic security records.

Ottawa was taking steps to finalize a protocol to notify Canadians of incoming ballistic missiles, according to a memo obtained by the Canadian Agency under the Access to Information Act.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, a series of federal consultations and initiatives aimed at strengthening Canada’s preparedness for a catastrophic nuclear event began.

A public security memo, prepared ahead of an August 2022 meeting of senior crisis management officials, shows much of the concern centered on Ukraine’s shelled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. .

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“Ongoing military activity is eroding safety systems, disrupting routine maintenance, weakening emergency response capabilities, impacting operational staff, and increasing the risk of serious accidents,” the memo said. ing.

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Officials expected the potential effects of uncontrolled radioactive release from direct exposure or ingestion of contaminated food to depend on proximity to the plant.

Global Affairs Canada procured potassium iodide tablets as a preventive measure and distributed stocks to Kiev and nearby diplomatic missions in August 2022.

Officials also made plans for a “massive surge in consular assistance requests” expected after the power plant disaster.

The memo states that no radiation health effects are expected outside of Ukraine following the massive radiation release from Zaporizhia, nor is a “substantial risk” for Canadians expected.

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“There is no immediate need for protective measures, but due to the potential for contamination, some restrictions may be introduced on imports from Ukraine and the surrounding regions.”

Under the Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan, public safety will coordinate communication of information to the public about international nuclear events.

“A timely and well-coordinated response will be required to address public concerns and high perceptions of risk, and to maintain confidence in government.”

The memo also stated that public security and the Privy Council Secretariat were conducting a “rapid update” of the Constitutional Continuity Plan aimed at ensuring essential administrative, legislative and judicial processes in the event of a major disaster. ing.

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The plan outlines the process of moving key institutions such as the prime minister’s office, federal cabinet, parliament and the Supreme Court to alternative locations outside the metropolitan area.

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The plan, a modern version of a Cold War-era plan, was to move government officials to an underground facility in west Ottawa, now known as Diefenbunker, after Canada’s 13th prime minister.

The internal memo also notes that the National Missile Alert Protocol has been ratified and that “early engagements” have been made with states and territories.

In 2018, the federal government and the Canadian Armed Forces developed a protocol that stipulates how the public and key federal partners will be notified of incoming missiles. On January 13, 2018, a false ballistic missile alert terrified Hawaiians and forced them to evacuate.

Canadian Public Security did not respond to questions about updates to the constitutional continuity plan, the status of missile warning protocols, or recent efforts to strengthen emergency preparedness for nuclear events.

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Ed Waller, a professor at the Ontario Institute of Technology who studies nuclear security, said it’s not unusual for crises like the one in Europe to prompt authorities to rethink their emergency plans.

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“I think it shows a responsive system,” he said in an interview. “It’s actually very reassuring that they’re seriously considering the issue now.”

Overall, Canada has long had a well-thought-out and well-developed plan for dealing with a nuclear emergency given the number of power reactors in the country, he added.

“Honestly, I believe we’re in pretty good shape. Will it get better? Yes, everything will get better.”

While some sensitive content in the newly released memo was withheld, Waller said it was “reassuring that they were doing the right thing.”

© 2023 Canadian Press

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