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September 13, 2012

No Nuke of the North: Québec's Parti Québécois Will Close Gentilly-2 Reactor

618-Lm-Hydro-PlantJust a week after gaining control of Québec's provincial government, Canada's Parti Québécois announced that it will keep its election promise to shut down the Gentilly-2 nuclear reactor in Bécancour, the Montreal Gazette reports. The announcement, by a PQ spokesperson, came just hours before the premiere of a new documentary by two Montréal filmmakers about the health and safety concerns of residents living near the nuke plant along the St. Lawrence River.

"This is culmination of many years of effort by many people working together across Québec," said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. Edwards, who’s based in Montréal, is a physicist who has spent years challenging claims by the plant's owner, Hydro-Québec, about the safety, reliability and economics of Canada’s nuclear industry. "Québecers are proud that ours will be the first jurisdiction in North America to phase completely out of nuclear power," he added.

Last Tuesday, Québecers tossed out Jean Charest's right-leaning Liberal Party after nine years in power, replacing it with the left-leaning, pro-secession Parti Québécois. The Charest government had endorsed the multibillion dollar refurbishment of the Gentilly-2, or G-2, for another 20 years. 

As Seven Days reported back in May, the problems that have plagued G-2 are eerily similar to those at Vermont Yankee, yet have remained largely unreported on the U.S. side of the border. G-2 is closer to thousands more Vermonters than Vermont Yankee is. Lying midway between Québec City and Montréal, it's the nearest reactor to northern Vermont — closer than Indian Point in Buchanan, N.Y.; Pilgrim Nuclear in Plymouth, Mass.; Seabrook Station in Seabrook, N.H.; or Millstone Nuclear in Waterford, Conn.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), the equivalent of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), has allowed G-2 to release a greater quantity of tritium into the air and water each day than was estimated to have leaked from Vermont Yankee in a year. Canada’s standard for tritium in drinking water is nearly 10 times higher than the limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Hydro-Québec did not comment on the announcement. But according to its website, G-2 supplies only 2.5 percent of the company's total energy output. Vermont buys about one-third of its power from the Canadian utility giant.

File photo by Ken Picard.

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