Nuclear's got the power

Hour Magazine; Meg Hewings - September 18, 2008

Much to the exasperation of the ecological-group coalition Réseau québécois des groupes écologistes (RQGE), the Quebec government recently confirmed their ongoing commitment and investment in Quebec's only nuclear power plant, the Gentilly-2. The RQGE groups claim the decision not only undermines the democratic process, but fails to acknowledge the environmental impact of the project or evaluate any alternative energy solutions.

The groups agree that a public consultation process was needed through the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environment (BAPE), an independent bureau that regulates and examines the validity and impact of such projects on the environment. Long-time activist Michel Fugère was denied access to the plant's public press conference, and environmentalists are taking the Charest government to task on their decision to extend the plant's life span.

As stockpiles of radioactive material generated by Gentilly-2 continue to grow, fears remain about the short and long-term affects on the environment and citizens.

The Gentilly-2 has been around for 25 years and is in dire need of repairs. One of the repair options would extend the plant's life by 25 years. The other option would shut the plant down, clean it up, and see it maintained. While both are expensive propositions, environmental groups argue the plant closure and clean up could have proven profitable, as site workers would have been employed in the complex 40-year cleanup and management of waste.

While Gentilly-2 only

supplies 3 per cent of the total electrical output of Hydro-Quebec, the company argues that it helps diversify the province's power sources. The plant's location, near major electrical load centres, means it plays an essential role in stabilizing the Hydro-Québec grid, which relies on large remote hydraulic generating stations connected via very long transmission lines.

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