MONTREAL - A coalition of environmental groups, artists, scientists and politicians, including members of the Parti Quebecois and Quebec Solidaire, met in Montreal on Monday to call for the permanent closure of the Gentilly-2 nuclear reactor.

The meeting was not inspired by the nuclear energy troubles in Japan but rather to coincide with the deadline for submissions to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on the refurbishment of Gentilly- 2.

Hydro-Quebec has planned to upgrade the facility at a cost of $2.2 billion.

Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois would prefer to see that money used to develop clean, renewable energy technology.

"That is not acceptable for the cost at this moment, so it is why we are against this project," Marois said. "If we put the same amount of money in renewable energy I think we will win as Quebecers."

Gordon Edwards, who heads the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, was one of about a dozen leaders who disagreed with plans to spend big money to spruce up the plant that supplies less than three per cent of the province's power.

"It's a waste of money. Quebec doesn't need nuclear power," said Edwards. "We could buy a lot of renewable energy for two billion dollars."

Edwards pointed to countries such as Germany which have replaced many nuclear plants with renewable energy sources such as windmills.

Opponents of nuclear power in Quebec cite the potential danger that comes with technology, which range from terrorist attacks to technical foul-ups.

One speaker noted that while Quebec isn't vulnerable to tsunamis such as that which destabilized the system in Japan, the province could be at risk of a power outage which could make it impossible to pump water required for cooling.

"Politicians and the public combined were misled as to the nature of this technology, they were led to believe that it was clean, safe and reliable but none of those statements are true," Edwards said. "People are being lied to again by being led to believe that this accident (in Japan) was caused by an earthquake and a tsunami. Not true. What it was caused by was a blackout."

Also, as Greenpeace's Eric Darier pointed out to CTV Montreal's Cindy Sherwin, it is impossible to foresee accidents that lead to a nuclear disaster, making any nuclear plant a potential risk no matter where it is located.

"These are complex technologies and I think the accident in Japan, also in Chernobyl, also in Three Mile island, all were accidents that were not supposed to take place," Darier said.

The speakers asserted that Quebec's wealth of hydro-electrical power puts the province in a position to not need nuclear energy.

"Gentilly 2 is used as a support for peak hours for Hydro Quebec when you have a hard winter time or when you have a peak in electricity, a high consumption," said Claude Leroi, a professor and nuclear energy expert at the Universite de Montreal. "So of course you have to (strike) a balance. Is it worth it to put money to refurbish? But keep in mind that shutting down a reactor is expensive also."

Some argue that the money that Hydro Quebec put aside for renovations would be better served decommissioning the nuclear plant and investing in employment programs for the Trois-Rivieres area where the plant is located. But Leroi warns it could take 15 years and up top $100 million just to shut down Gentilly 2 safely.

But ultimately, economics aside, many of the speakers wanted Quebec to take a leading role in the country and show that the province is able to function free of the crutch of nuclear power.

With files from the Canadian Press