Quebec Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said Monday he agrees with Hydro-Québec’s decision to study a possible reopening of the province’s only nuclear power plant.
Fitzgibbon was reacting to last week’s news that the power utility is looking into restarting the Gentilly-2 reactor in Bécancour, Que., as a response to growing energy demand. He told reporters in Montreal that as Quebec moves away from fossil fuels, all alternative sources of energy should be studied.
It would be “irresponsible,” he said, to reject nuclear power outright, adding that any new energy projects should be “socially acceptable and economically profitable.”
Last week, Hydro-Québec confirmed that its new CEO, Michael Sabia, has an “open mind” on nuclear energy. The utility said it would assess the plant’s current condition in order to “evaluate our options and inform our thinking about Quebec’s future energy supply.” Hydro-Québec’s announcement was met with criticism from environmental group Greenpeace Canada and from opposition politicians, who called on the government to launch a national discussion on Quebec’s energy future.
In 2012 the provincial government closed Gentilly-2, located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, in part because of the high cost of refurbishing the plant, which opened in 1983.
But Quebec’s energy situation has changed since then. Fitzgibbon and other officials have warned that the demand for electricity from companies seeking to launch industrial projects in the province exceeds Hydro-Québec’s current capacity. The minister has also suggested that Quebecers will need to reduce their energy consumption, but the government hasn’t released details on how that goal will be achieved.
On Monday, Fitzgibbon said Sabia is considering the imbalance between supply and demand of energy in the province. “And (Sabia) is saying that we have to look at the energy sources available, which include nuclear, but we are far from having decided; no decision has been made, either by Hydro-Québec or the government.”
He said in order for Quebec to successfully transition away from fossil fuels, the province will need to increase its renewable energy capacity and residents will need to change the way they consume energy. He also said the number of cars on the road has to be cut in half — and that the cars that remain should be electric.
Fitzgibbon added, “we need to capture the carbon that already exists, in the sea or in the sky, and sequester it.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2023.
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