800 jobs at risk, big environmental cleanup with PQ plan to close Gentilly-2
Published Friday, September 21, 2012 8:39PM EDT
MONTREAL—The union representing Hydro-Quebec workers is denouncing the Parti Quebecois’ plan to shut down the Gentilly-2 nuclear reactor. A move they say endangers the jobs of the power station’s 800 workers.
Despite safety concerns revolving around nuclear power, the union says that the potential health risks of shutting down the plant could be greater than those of continuing operations.
“For the past 30 years we’ve had no accidents,” started the FTQ’s Pierre Bibeau. “Nobody's dead because of any problems with nuclear power.”
Hydro-Quebec was planning to spend $2 billion to refurbish the Mauricie plant, even though it only produces 2 per cent of Hydro's total power output. Public support for nuclear power has waned, especially following last year’s disaster in Japan.
Now the new government is shutting down Gentilly-2.
“These people have been fighting a human drama,” said Ginette Paul, speaking for the Canadian Union of Public Empoyees. The union representative fought back tears; she said that the people of Becancour feel like the PQ is turning its back on them.
Across the St-Lawrence River from Trois-Rivieres, the power station brings over $200 million in annual economic spinoffs to the Mauricie Region. Despite the benefits, many have long argued that nuclear power just isn’t worth it.
“The price of electricity coming from this plant is more than 11 cents per kilowatt hour, we've got a surplus of energy and that's way more than we're even selling it for to the United States,” said nuclear consultant Gordon Edwards.
And what of the safety concerns? The documentary "Gentilly or not to be" cited a German study which found significantly higher rates of leukemia in children who live near nuclear plants—the documentary claimed women living near nuclear reactors in Germany have double the risk of having leukemic children.
The Becancour workers have long insisted that their plant is safer, now they wonder what will happen to all those jobs. Edwards believes there will still be a lot of work
“There’s a lot of work to be done in dismantling two nuclear reactors,” said Edwards.
As of yet, the Becancour workers have heard few concrete plans for their future. They want the government to sit down with them soon and tell them what they're supposed to do to make a living.