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Hydro-Quebec finds nuclear refurbishment too costly

Hydro-Quebec has decided to shut down the only nuclear power generating plant in the province this December. The corporation's chief executive officer, Thierry Vandal, said that the Gentilly 2 power plant will be prepared for "dormancy," with a...



Hydro-Quebec has decided to shut down the only nuclear power generating plant in the province this December. The corporation’s chief executive officer, Thierry Vandal, said that the Gentilly 2 power plant will be prepared for “dormancy,” with a view to dismantling it “several decades from now.” After about 40 years the spent fuel will be removed from the site and the plant will be dismantled. The total decommissioning will take 50 years and cost $1.8 billion.

Gentilly 2 was one of three planned reactors on the site in Bécancour, near Trois-Rivieres. Gentilly 1 is already closed down, and Gentilly 3 was never completed.

Built in 1982, Gentilly 2 has 675 MW(e) capacity. It is a CANDU 6 reactor, similar to the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant in New Brunswick. Problems in refurbishing the Point Lepreau plant are part of the reason why Hydro-Quebec has decided to close Gentilly 2. In 2008 the Quebec utility had announced plans to overhaul the plant but it now says this is not financially viable.

Hydro-Quebec’s announcement of October 3 reads: “Major problems incurred in similar projects at Point Lepreau (New Brunswick) and Wolsong (South Korea), along with the uncertainty surrounding the sale of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), led Hydro-Québec to postpone the start of work several times. Today, in light of the feedback it has obtained on the complete refurbishment cycle, the company has reassessed the cost of the project to $4.3 billion. This corresponds to a unit cost of 12.3¢ per kilowatt hour, taking into account the investment required as well as $2 billion in future costs related to the spent fuel and long-term decommissioning of the generating station.

“The increase in project costs, combined with falling market prices, has prompted Hydro-Québec to recommend to the Québec government that the generating station be closed.”


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