Hydro-Québec mulls Gentilly 2 recommissioning

11 August 2023

Hydro-Québec has confirmed it is assessing the current state of the plant which closed in 2012, as it looks at options to increase its production of clean electricity.

The Gentilly site: Gentilly 1 was a prototype reactor that ceased operations in 1977 (Image: Hydro-Québec)

Gentilly 2, with an installed capacity of 675 MWe, was Québec's only operating nuclear power plant when the provincial government announced in September 2012 that a planned refurbishment of the plant would no longer go ahead. The Candu reactor, which is on the south shore of the Fleuve Saint-Laurent (St Lawrence River), in the municipality of Bécancour, closed at the end of that year, after operating for 29 years.

The government-owned corporation responded to reports in the Canadian press that its newly appointed President and CEO Michael Sabia had initiated a feasibility study into the possibility of recommissioning the plant.

"Remember that the demand for clean electricity will increase significantly over the next few years, in order to decarbonise the Quebec economy, which represents an immense challenge," the company said on the X social media platform. "An assessment of the current state of the plant is underway, in order to assess our options and inform our reflections on Québec's future energy supply.

"We are evaluating different possible options to increase the production of clean electricity. It would be irresponsible at this time to exclude certain energy sectors as the province faces the challenges of increasing electricity demand."

Gentilly 2 entered decommissioning immediately after it shut down for the final time on 28 December 2012. Defuelling was completed by early September 2013. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission issued a decommissioning licence for the plant in July 2016, and all of its irradiated fuel had been transferred to dry storage on site by December 2020. The decommissioning plan then envisaged transitioning the pant to a 40-year monitored storage phase before beginning final dismantling in 2057. Late last year, Hydro-Québec said it was exploring the possibility of dismantling some of the buildings earlier than planned.

Over 99% of Hydro-Québec's electricity is generated from renewable sources, predominantly from its fleet of 63 hydropower generating stations and 28 reservoirs. But according to the company's Strategic Plan 2022-2026, more than 100 TWh of additional clean electricity will be required if the province is to attain carbon neutrality by 2050. Under that plan, the company is aiming to increase its generating capacity by 5000 MWe by upgrading its current hydropower plants and adding wind power capacity.

Nationally, Canada generates over 16% of its electricity from nuclear power from 18 Candu reactors at the Bruce, Darlington and Pickering sites in Ontario and a single unit at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick. Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan are pursuing a strategic plan to develop and deploy small modular reactors, and in July the government of Ontario announced the start of pre-development work to build up to 4800 MWe of new large-scale nuclear capacity at Bruce Power's existing site.

Earlier this week, the Canadian government launched its vision for transforming the nation's electricity sector, which Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson described as a "truly transformational, nation-building project". Powering Canada Forward will inform how the federal government plans to work with partners and stakeholders as it develops Canada's first Clean Electricity Strategy, which is to be released next year.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News