Tag Archives: Quebec

CNA Responds Nuclear Energy Nuclear News

Gentilly-2 Movie Makes Fiction Out of Fact

It was reported last week that the recently elected Parti Quebecois intends to shut down Quebec’s reactor, Gentilly-2. Nothing is official until the new government makes it so, but comments from PQ spokesperson, Éric Gamache, have caught some attention.

This has always been the PQ party’s position on Gentilly-2 (G2), so why the stir now?

Timing is everything. A movie called “Gentilly Or Not To Be,” based on a report by the Quebec government’s Agence de la santé et des services sociaux de la Mauricie et du Centre-du-Québec aired last night on Télé-Québec.

The G2 movie uses this report as the basis for their claim that ‘the rate of childhood cancers in the area around the plant is 27% higher than in the rest of Québec.’

To be clear, this is the film maker’s interpretation of the data.

The director of the public health agency that authored the report, physician Gilles W. Grenier, clearly acknowledges the limitations of the municipal data, the very small numbers involved, random variables, the difficulty in interpreting the statistics to determine significance, the need for more detailed study and so on — so the 27% claim is simply not credible.

In fact, according to the CNSC, the Regional Public Health Directorate confirms cancer rates are normal around Gentilly-2. The fluctuations recorded by the documentary filmmakers for the years 2000–2004 are normal, temporary and related to cases located in a relatively remote area from the plant. In fact, such fluctuations are regularly observed in the population and should not be interpreted blindly and recklessly.

To quote Dr. Grenier, when he spoke with the CBC on September 11,

“We’ve been monitoring cancer rates and birth-defect rates for 20 years in a 20-kilometre radius around the reactor, and in all that period, in the zone from five to 10 kilometres out, we’ve never seen a rise in cancer cases against the Quebec average.”

The film also references a German study that alleges increased leukemia risk for people living near nuclear power stations. This is false. The authors of the study and the German Commission on Radiological Protection have determined that the presence of clusters (or concentrations) of leukemia cases near some German nuclear power plants had nothing to do with the radioactive releases. In fact, some years clusters are observed in different regions of Germany whether they have nuclear power plants or not.

Also worth noting, recent British and French studies used the same methodology as the German childhood leukemia study and did not find any increase in risk in their populations.

To be or not to be

The film’s title is a clever play on the opening lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy and clearly signals the intention of the movie, which is to ask the question: do we need nuclear energy?

…Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles…

But who is Hamlet in this scenario, really? What outrageous fortune is it to have a reliable, clean energy source like nuclear? In 2012, nuclear power from G2 helped avoid almost 3.5 million tonnes CO2 emissions in Quebec. The province is fortunate to have immense hydro power but that’s not the case for all provinces or countries.

This is another issue the film failed to address. Nuclear power is a vital part of Canada’s clean energy mix. It accounts for 15% of all electricity generated across the country and almost 60% in Ontario alone. Nuclear is a strong reliable source of base load power that is enabling Ontario to quit coal by 2014 and get renewable sources like wind and solar on the grid. Nuclear power generation can enable Canada to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by reducing dependence on burning fossil fuels, like coal, oil and gas. An energy mix that includes nuclear means a cleaner, greener future.

The film makers feel they are taking arms against a sea of trouble. A sea filled with supposed increased childhood cancer rates and misunderstandings about the safety of this energy source.

People who work at nuclear facilities live near them too. They are knowledgeable about the technology and the science. They understand how safe it is, how responsibly power generation by-products and used-fuel are handled.

They are 800 strong at G2. Ask yourself, would 800 people collectively decide to put their health and their families’ health in harm’s way if there was indeed such a huge risk, as the film makers say?

We don’t think so either.

 

Additional Reading

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission sent a letter from President Dr. Michael Binder to the editor of Le Nouvelliste, a QC paper that has been covering the issue recently. They completely debunk the claims in the film. If you’re still worried, we recommend you read the letter and sleep better tonight.

More from the CNSC on this issue:  Similar to the letter above but with more myth busting facts!

Radiation and health is a complicated issue for us regular folks. AECL, one of the best sources for accurate information about nuclear, has compiled this information and list of resources.

Guest Blog Nuclear Energy

Gentilly or Not To Be: Hype not Truth!

Below is a well-crafted response, by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, to an article in Le Nouvelliste about the forthcoming movie “Gentilly or not to be.” The movie is being widely criticized as a shock-doc and, given the false claims described and debunked below, it’s not hard to understand why.

Check back for our response to the G-2 movie early next week after we’ve seen it. The movie airs on Télé-Québec on Monday September 17.

Response to the article entitled “La centrale nucléaire est-elle dangereuse?” published in the September 7, 2012 edition of Le Nouvelliste.

September 7, 2012

The upcoming release of the documentary Gentilly or Not To Be recently reported by Le Nouvelliste could unfortunately raise unfounded concerns about the safety of Gentilly-2 and the nuclear industry in general.

Here are some examples of falsehoods spread to raise people’s interest for the film:

 

Falsehood #1:

Fact: The Regional Public Health Directorate confirms cancer rates are normal around Gentilly-2. The fluctuations recorded by the documentary filmmakers for the years 2000–2004 are normal, temporary and related to cases located in a relatively remote area of the plant. In fact, such fluctuations are regularly observed in the population and should not be interpreted blindly and recklessly.

 

Falsehood #2: Women of childbearing age should not live near nuclear power plants because of the dangers related to radioactive releases.

Fact: Minimal releases from nuclear power plants do not pose a danger to human health, including fetuses and young children. This has been demonstrated by many Canadian and international studies.

 

Falsehood #3: A German study found that children living near nuclear power plants are at a higher risk of developing leukemia resulting from radioactive releases.

Fact: The authors of the study and the German Commission on Radiological Protection have determined that the presence of clusters (or concentrations) of leukemia cases near some German nuclear power plants had nothing to do with the radioactive releases. In fact, some years clusters are observed in different regions of Germany whether they have nuclear power plants or not.

 

Falsehood #4: All Canadian nuclear waste will be stored in Quebec.

Fact: None of the 19 communities that are currently part of the selection process for the establishment of a nuclear waste storage site in Canada are in Quebec.

 

Described in the media as a shock film, Gentilly or Not To Be promises to induce anger because of its lack of rigor and the falsehoods repeated by spokespersons of anti-nuclear groups. It seems that the documentary filmmakers have fallen into the trap.

The one and only role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is to regulate the nuclear industry to protect Canadians and the environment. Rest assured that we would not allow Hydro-Québec to continue to operate Gentilly-2 if it was not safe.

 

Michael Binder
President
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

CNA Responds

CNA Responds: The Green Goliath Takes on Nuclear (Financial Post, Dec. 10)

This Letter to the editor was submitted to the Financial Post in response to this op-ed on December 10.

***

Lawrence Solomon makes the claim that “the Ontario government’s decision to go nuclear — based on the ideology of the 1960s and 1970s — had nothing to do with economics and everything to do with the politics of the day.”  Ontario was out of suitable large hydroelectric sites by the 1950s and nuclear was the economic, low-emissions option that was emerging.

Choosing nuclear power greatly facilitated Ontario’s economic growth over the past five decades, it has helped Canada avoid about 90 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, and still supports tens of thousands of high-wage, highly-skilled jobs in Ontario.  If that decision “had nothing to do with economics” then it has been a remarkably lucky one for Ontarians’ quality of life.

Because nuclear power plants are highly reliable, competitive, predictable in costs, and low in emissions, they have been chosen as a source of base load power in most of the world’s large, developed economies.  Most of these countries are planning new investments in nuclear, as are many emerging economies.

What Solomon calls “nuclear power cost overruns” were in large measure a combination of high interest rates, unexpected delays due to stops and starts of projects by different governments, and unanticipated design changes by regulators.  None of the cost challenges that have affected nuclear power plant construction are inherent in nuclear technology.  New nuclear plants in Asia are being built at a very low cost compared with North America and Europe, in part due to the cost benefits of getting beyond the slower “first of a kind” projects and moving on to second, third and fourth plants of the same design.

The costs and timeliness of plant construction have become more accurate as more plants are built.   And while nuclear plants have high capital costs and take a long time to come into service, once they are built they have low and stable operating costs, and those operating costs are much less sensitive to fuel price increases than either gas or coal plants.  That is why nuclear is becoming the global choice for base load electric power.

In Canada, three provinces – Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick – are benefitting from this available, reliable, clean and affordable source of energy.  And, for almost 50 years, Canada’s nuclear industry has achieved an unparalleled record of safe power generation in these provinces. Nuclear energy is responsible for 15% of Canada’s electricity production and for 55% of Ontario’s alone.  Furthermore, nuclear energy is not subject to unreliable weather or climate conditions, unpredictable cost fluctuations, or dependence on foreign suppliers. Fortunately, Canada is a uranium-rich country, making the supply of this key ingredient stable over time.

Canada has a number of challenges ahead with respect to electricity demand. We believe that when the real costs and benefits are considered, nuclear will play a significant role in Canada’s energy portfolio going forward. It is a vital component for a sustainable energy future.

Denise Carpenter

President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association