Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois has urged the government to shut down Hydro-Quebecs Gentilly-2 reactor located at Becancour, near Trois-Rivieres. The PQ has said refurbishing the aging plant would unnecessarily cost $2 billion.
Charest replied by suggesting Marois was trying to build political capital on the back of the nuclear crisis gripping Japan, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that rocked its reactors.
If theres one thing I wont do, its make a decision like that based on a headline in a newspaper or one single event, Charest said, adding that Marois was acting out of pure and simple political opportunism.
He asked if the PQ would demand the James Bay power dams be shut down if a catastrophe struck Japanese hydroelectric installations.
Charest also scoffed at the apparent solidarity between the PQ and the tiny left-wing Quebec Solidaire on such issues as nuclear power and shale gas exploration, saying the PQ had become radicalized again.
Marois shot back that she has had her position on nuclear power for more than a year.
She said it was reached after looking at all aspects of the issue, including the need to diversify the economy of the region where Gentilly-2 is located and to replace the 800 jobs at the plant.
We decided in September 2009 that it would be wiser to abandon the reconstruction of the facility, she said.
Marois added the closure of Gentilly-2 makes sense given the costs and delays in refurbishing its twin at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick.
For the moment, however, the government plans to maintain the status quo and Charest sought to reassure people about the safety of the plant.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has announced an inspection, so to speak, of the 22 nuclear power plants located in Canada, including Gentilly, he said.
It also announced its intention to upgrade security protocols and we agree with this, he said.