Simulation of the impacts of a Fukushima-scale accident at a reactor in the Greater Toronto Area.

The fox is guarding the henhouse: the Ontario government has left nuclear companies in charge of public safety planning.

It leaves us all vulnerable to a nuclear emergency on the Great Lakes. And it’s got to stop.

This is exactly the kind of government complacency that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The Japanese government’s investigation into Fukushima found that the root cause of the disaster was that government bureaucrats put protecting the image and profits of the nuclear industry before public safety.

They found that the government failed not only to prevent the accident by requiring essential safety upgrades, but also to prepare crucial emergency measures that could have protected people from the impacts.

Japan has since sought to insulate government oversight from the negative influence of nuclear lobbyists by making independent and transparent government agencies responsible for public safety.

This hasn’t happened in Ontario, and it puts us all at risk.

Since Fukushima, it has become clear to me – mostly through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests – that the Ontario government’s safety authorities rely on policy advice from nuclear companies, a glaring conflict of interest.

For example, provincial bureaucrats accepted Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposal on how to re-assess the adequacy of emergency measures following Fukushima without question.

OPG proposed a fairytale approach to nuclear safety.

It told the government emergency plans should be based not on real-world experience, but on an imagined small-scale nuclear accident inspired by Goldilocks:“not too small, not too large; just right.”

OPG intentionally told the government not to use a Fukushima-scale accident to assess provincial emergency plans.

Those of you who remember the story might catch the irony here: Goldilocks thought Baby Bear’s chair was “just right”, but when she sat in it, it broke into pieces.

In another example, in 2013, Greenpeace met with Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and warned her the province was unprepared for a Fukushima-scale accident.  We also told her OPG’s own safety studies showed the risk of a Fukushima-scale accident was real.

But I later learned, through another FOI request, that government bureaucrats simply emailed OPG to ask what they should tell the Minister after she asked for more information on our concerns.

As you can imagine, OPG advised them to deny our concerns– despite their own findings.

I could go on, but you can see the pattern:  OPG discourages government bureaucrats from expanding emergency preparedness, and government authorities blindly follow OPG’s lead.

So while Germany and Switzerland have independently studied Fukushima-scale accidents to better protect their citizens, OPG has repeatedly blocked any such discussion here in Ontario.

It’s clear why: protecting Ontarians from a major nuclear accident will require expanding emergency planning zones.

This will cost nuclear companies like OPG money and lead to uncomfortable conversations about nuclear risks.

But that shouldn’t matter.  A government’s job is to value and protect the safety of people and families – not the profits and reputation of the nuclear industry.

That’s why we need to transform the way Ontario oversees public safety.

To ensure Ontario’s public safety authorities’ first priority actually is public safety, we need to insulate them from industry influence.

This requires independent government oversight. It also requires transparency, which empowers the public to expose the fact that the Ontario government is compromising public safety-- and stop them from doing so.

Unfortunately, we have neither independent government oversight nor transparency right now.

That’s why your voice is so important. Please tell Premier Wynne to put public safety first.