Response to article entitled “Gentilly-2: risque réel ou exagéré?” published in Le Nouvelliste on March 8, 2012
March 9, 2012
To the Editor-in-Chief:
Groups opposed to the refurbishment of Gentilly-2 have recently made unfounded and needlessly alarming statements concerning the ability of the facility to resist earthquakes. I would like to set the record straight and reassure those individuals who now feel less confident about the safety of Gentilly-2 as a result of your article.
Gentilly-2 is safe and has been designed to withstand the seismic activity that could take place in the Trois-Rivières area. After the Fukushima accident, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) immediately conducted an exhaustive review of Canada’s nuclear power plants. This included evaluating nuclear facilities’ resistance to external events (earthquakes, floods, severe storms, etc.). The review confirmed that facilities are robust and that operators are prepared for emergencies.
I would also like to inform your readers that the CNSC has introduced a comprehensive action plan to follow up on the recommendations of the task force that was created to inspect the power plants. The measures, a number of which have already been implemented, have further improved the safety of these facilities and their ability to deal with very low probability incidents. Going forward, Canadian operators will have offsite equipment to guarantee the safe shutdown of the reactors, no matter how serious the accident. International experts who recently visited Canada concluded that our approach was adequate and described it as a model to be followed.
Michel Duguay, one of the most active critics on this issue, failed to report certain crucial details when he quoted Greg Rzentkowski of the CNSC concerning a possible meltdown in the event of a very strong earthquake. The qualifying words referring to the magnitude of the Fukushima earthquake were not cited. The fact that the reactor would shut down safely was also not mentioned. Seismologists across Canada state categorically that an earthquake comparable to the one in Japan in March 2011 cannot happen in Quebec. Furthermore, Mr. Duguay’s isolated use of ground acceleration values and the Richter scale demonstrates a lack of technical knowledge in this field.
Finally, the issues raised by Mr. Duguay were discussed at public hearings concerning Gentilly-2’s licence renewal in 2011. The CNSC would not have renewed Hydro-Québec’s licence without assurance that the plant is safe.
Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission