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Non Nukes: Québec Shutters Its Only Nuclear Power Plant

Local Matters Year-End Update

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Non Nukes: Québec Shutters Its Only Nuclear Power Plant

May 02: Most Vermonters have probably never heard of Gentilly 2, the 675-megawatt nuclear power plant in Bécancour, Québec. But, as Seven Days reported in May, “G-2” is closer to northern Vermont than any American reactor, including Vermont Yankee. And, like the Vernon plant, G-2 got a new lease on life when its owner, Hydro-Québec, announced plans to refurbish the reactor and keep it operational for another three decades.

Canadian antinuke activists have fought for years to shut down G-2. Since going online in 1983, the plant has experienced problems eerily similar to those at Vermont Yankee — but worse. G-2 releases more radioactive tritium into the air and water each day than the tritium estimated to have leaked from Vermont Yankee in all of 2011.

Yet despite those problems and overwhelming opposition from Québécois — 320 Québec municipalities adopted resolutions calling for G-2’s closure — Canadian regulators earlier this year gave the plant approval to continue splitting atoms.

Update: In October, Hydro-Québec announced it would close G-2 at the end of this year — specifically, on December 28.

Why the change of heart? The company cited “increased production costs” — $6.3 billion compared to $1.8 billion to decommission the plant — combined with “falling market prices” for electricity.

Politicians, too, were against the plant. During last summer’s election, Québec’s newly elected premier, Pauline Marois, promised to shutter the province’s only nuke when its license expires at the end of 2012.

Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, hailed the decision, saying “Québecers are proud that ours will be the first jurisdiction in North America to phase completely out of nuclear power.”

But even after G-2’s electricity is long gone, its radiation will linger. HQ plans to leave the facility dormant for 40 years before removing its spent fuel and radioactive equipment, dismantling the facility, and restoring the site. That work won’t be completed until 2062.

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