Gentilly or Not To Be: Let’s Set the Record Straight
September 18, 2012
The recently released documentary Gentilly or Not To Be may, regrettably, raise unfounded concerns about the safety record of Gentilly-2 nuclear power plant, and the nuclear industry in general.
The film spreads many incorrect facts and interpretations that have little to do with reality. It would appear as though the producers of the film preferred to bury their own heads in the sand, rather than listening to competent public health authorities.
To be clear, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) does not take a position on the commercial activities of Hydro-Québec and the energy policies of the province of Quebec.
However, as Canada’s sole, independent nuclear regulator, the CNSC must set the record straight about some of the falsehoods being disseminated by the movie and its producers.
Here are some examples of falsehoods presented:
Falsehood #1: There is an abnormal rate of childhood cancers near Gentilly-2.
Fact: The Regional Public Health Directorate for La Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec confirms cancer rates around Gentilly-2 are normal. The fluctuations recorded by the documentary filmmakers for the years 2000–04 are normal, temporary, and found in a relatively remote area away from 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: The 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: Living beside a nuclear facility increases the likelihood of birth defects and stillbirths, as proven by cases reported near Gentilly-2.
Fact: There is no evidence that exposure to radiation from nuclear facilities increases the risk of birth defect and stillbirths. Detailed health studies on survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings and people living near Chernobyl demonstrate that fact. Similarly, four studies conducted over many years on the population living around two large nuclear power stations in Ontario have provided no evidence of such effects. The cases reported in the movie cannot credibly be linked to the operations of Gentilly-2.
Falsehood #4: A German study (KiKK) found that children living near nuclear power plants are at a higher risk of developing leukemia from radioactive releases.
Fact: The authors of the KiKK 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 were not related to the radiation emitted by the facilities. In fact, some clusters are observed in different regions of Germany whether they have nuclear power plants or not. Other studies conducted in France, Britain and Switzerland found no relationship between how close someone lives to a nuclear power plant and the risk of leukemia.
Falsehood #5: There are no safe levels of exposure to radiation.
Fact:There are no observable negative health effects below certain level of radiation exposure - about 100 millisieverts (mSv). Every year, Canadians are exposed on average to about 1.8 mSv from natural background radiation. This means that in one year, residents living in Trois-Rivières and Bécancour get 900 times more radiation from natural background than from the man-made radiation from Gentilly-2.
Falsehood #6: All Canadian nuclear waste will be stored in Quebec.
Fact: None of the 21 communities that are currently part of the selection process underway for the establishment of a nuclear waste storage site in Canada is in Quebec.
The CNSC would never license nuclear facility operators if their activities posed a health risk to the public, workers or the environment.