Canada Accidentally Sent A Nuke Alert To Millions Of Citizens

Imagine just going about your lazy Sunday morning when suddenly, your phone receives a message. Not just any message, mind you — a cell phone alert from your country's officials, warning about an "incident" at a nearby nuclear plant. Terrified, you wander outside, knowing that nuclear plants are unlikely to create that iconic and terrifying mushroom cloud, but half expecting one in the horizon anyway. Thankfully, there's none to be seen. However, the street is teeming with other people. Everyone has received the same warning. What could prompt the government to terrify its citizens with a mass message like this? A terrorist attack? Oh dear, it's a terrorist attack, isn't it?

Something like that must have gone through the minds of the good citizens of Ontario, Canada on January 12, when they received a cell phone alert — one of those serious ones accompanied with a "shrill" emergency broadcast noise. The message warned them of an "unspecified event" at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station east of Toronto. To be fair, the utility officials did cancel the emergency an hour later. Then again, this meant that the people of Ontario spent an hour thinking they were about to star in a sequel to Chernobyland it's amazing what a sufficiently motivated (read: scared) person can achieve in an hour. One guy woke up to the alert and freaked out so badly that he booked a hotel room 60 miles away, with plans to "go as far west as possible and then cross the border." 

How could Canada send out an accidental nuke alert?

So, yeah, this particular nuke alert was fortunately just a fluke that was accidentally sent during a "routine training exercise" of the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre. The province's Solicitor General promptly released a statement and apologized for the inconvenience, and promised a full investigation that would make sure this sort of thing won't happen again. 

However, the incident received criticism over the fact that after the initial, vague warning, the public was left hanging for a whole hour with no further information, which is obviously not the ideal situation during a possible nuclear threat your very government just screamed about. It probably didn't help that the plant in question has had several earlier "incidents" with pump seal failures and the like.