The Sunday alert’s real lesson — Canada’s nuclear reactors are safe – by Jonathan Kay (National Post – January 15, 2020)

A strange, short-lived mini-panic afflicted Ontario on Sunday. And to the extent anyone was genuinely scared, some of the blame likely goes to The Simpsons.

“An incident was reported at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station,” read an emergency alert broadcast to millions of cellphones at 7:23 a.m. “There has been NO abnormal release of radioactivity … People near the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station DO NOT need to take any protective actions.”

Perhaps it says something about how my mind has been infected by cynical cultural tropes, but by the time I’d gotten to the end of the brief public message, I was channelling the false assurances offered to Simpsons-land TV viewers by Montgomery Burns about an imminent apocalypse at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant: “Oh, ‘meltdown.’ It’s one of these annoying buzzwords. We prefer to call it an unrequested fission surplus.”

Millions of people live near the Pickering facility. So, if this “incident” really had been an “unrequested fission surplus,” the consequences would have been dire. But as was made plain in that alert — and in a second alert sent at 9:11 a.m.

(“There is NO active nuclear situation … The previous alert was issued in error”) — there really was nothing to worry about. In fact, Burns’ own words to news anchor Kent Brockman — “Right now, skilled nuclear energy technicians are calmly correcting a minor, piffling malfunction” — would have been perfectly apt.

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