Activists play out disaster scenario of nuclear meltdown in Toronto

May 12, 2008

Toronto, Canada _ A group of radiation-poisoned Torontonians stricken and dying on the sidewalk. Rescue teams with Geiger counters, stretchers and gas masks. This was the scene at several locations in downtown Toronto today where Greenpeace activists staged the aftermath of an accident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.

The "street theatre" is part of Greenpeace's campaign, which highlights the evacuation radius of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. If a similar accident occurred at Pickering - the world's closest nuclear station to a major population centre - roughly 2.5 million people would be displaced from Yonge Street to Clarington.

The campaign is aimed at putting pressure on the McGuinty government to shut down the four Pickering "B" reactors when they reach the end of their operational life in 2014 instead of spending billions to rebuild them. The McGuinty government will decide whether it extend the life of the Pickering station in early 2009.

"Pickering is Canada's oldest and most dangerous nuclear station and is only 30 kilometers from downtown Toronto. It should be shut down in 2014, not rebuilt," said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, an energy campaigner with Greenpeace. "Regulatory authorities would never allow Pickering to be built today given the risks evidenced by Chernobyl, so they shouldn't rebuild it either."

Greenpeace is concerned that Pickering is becoming more of a threat to Toronto as it ages. At re-licensing hearings in Ajax Wednesday, the group will ask the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to increase its oversight of the nuclear station over the next five years. Recently disclosed safety studies obtained by Greenpeace show that the plant's safety margins have been reduced.

"The Pickering nuclear station is an unnecessary risk when quick-to-deploy, safe renewable energy alternatives exist," said Stensil. "We should prepare for Pickering's closure by developing green power to replace it."

Activists will also bring their street theatre to Scarborough Town Centre, Durham Regional Headquarters.

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