Greenpeace balloon predicts the range of Ontario nuclear fallout

Feature story - December 3, 2012
Greenpeace released a weather balloon today at the hearings on the future of the Darlington reactors to show that if there were a major nuclear accident at either of Toronto’s nuclear stations the radioactive fallout could blow onto the GTA, over the Great Lakes or across Eastern Ontario. Millions would be at risk.

The global positioning device on the balloon released at Courtice on near the Darlington nuclear station, charted its’ trajectory across Lake Ontario. This is one of the routes radioactive fallout from Darlington could travel.


The balloon was released outside the hearings held by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The global positioning data charts the balloons’ trajectory from Courtice, which is adjacent to the Darlington nuclear station. The public can track how radioactive fallout from Darlington could travel on a map. In just over three hours the balloon travelled 195km across Lake Ontario and landed 65km southeast of Prince Edward County.

Several activists held a four metre yellow banner saying “Nuclear Emergency”, and smaller banners saying “Stop Darlington”

Greenpeace activists in Courtice ON, preparing to release a weather balloon with GPS, illustrating that nuclear fallout from an accident would travel much farther than current emergency plans are prepared for.

“The Darlington nuclear station threatens communities across Ontario, but our governments have no credible plan in place to protect communities in the event of a Fukushima-like accident.That’s unacceptable”, said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.


Greenpeace has repeatedly asked the CNSC to consider whether Ontario’s current emergency plans could cope with a large accidental radiation release as seen at Fukushima, but it has refused, even though major nuclear accidents are happening about once a decade somewhere in the world. The CNSC admitted earlier this month that it also rejected a request from Emergency Management Ontario, which oversees Ontario’s nuclear emergency plans, to consider major accidents in its environmental review on the future of Darlington.

“It’s outrageous that CNSC has dismissed the possibility of a large radiation releases from Darlington in light of Fukushima. We live next to these reactors and want answers, not empty reassurances that it can't happen here”, said Jeff Brackett with the local community group, Durham Nuclear Awareness.

Even though the Fukushima disaster in Japan showed how a reactor accident could spread contamination far beyond the small 10km evacuation zone Ontario’s emergency accident plan anticipates, government authorities have failed to upgrade emergency preparedness plans to protect Canadians.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has asked the CNSC for approval to spend $8 – 14 billion to run the four Darlington reactors until 2055. The environmental assessment hearings run from December 3rd to 6th. Approximately 90 groups and individuals are expected to make presentations to the Commission.

Take action:
Send Minister of Energy Chris Bentley an email asking for better emergency planning at Darlington.