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Alert Warns 14M About 'Incident' at Nuke Plant

Ontario residents receive an odd early-morning message
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 12, 2020 12:50 PM CST
14M People Get Nuke Alert 'by Mistake'
The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, in Pickering, Ontario is seen Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020.   (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Newser) – People throughout the Canadian province of Ontario awoke Sunday to an alarming alert of an "incident" at a nuclear plant just east of Toronto—only to later be told the message was a mistake, the AP reports. The initial early morning emergency message popped up on the screens of cellphones throughout the nation's most populous province, saying an unspecified incident had occurred at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. It added there had been no abnormal release of radioactivity and said people didn't need to take protective action. More than an hour later, Ontario Power Generation later sent a message saying the alert "was sent in error. There is no danger to the public or environment. No further action is required."

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The notification message also was pushed onto to television screens. An official who apologized for the error said it was made during a "routine training exercise" and promised a "full investigation." Jim Vlahos, a 44-year-old father of two in Toronto, woke up to the alert and quickly made a hotel reservation more than 60 miles away in Niagara Falls. He said he figured he'd go as far west as possible and then cross the border. "Having watched Chernobyl didn't help," he said, referring to the HBO show about the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union. "The lack of communication following the alert didn’t help either." Toronto Mayor John Tory tweeted that "there are far too many unanswered questions" and noted it went out across the province of 14 million people.

(Read more nuclear power stories.)

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