China’s newly published Nuclear Safety Law: “Strict” ?

Written by Zaf Coelho. Posted in Uncategorized

In early September, China’s National Congress approved the first law for nuclear safety and security in China, and it will take effect from 1st January 2018, which will effectively put an end to the no-law-to-apply history of China’s nuclear industry.

What is in the nuclear safety law?

It is an extensive piece of legislature comprising of 8 sections and 94 articles written on nuclear safety law. They include:

  • General principles
  • Safety of nuclear materials and radioactive waste
  • Nuclear accident contingency
  • Information management and public participation
  • Supervision and inspection
  • Legal liability
  • Supplementary articles.

For the content, the Nuclear Safety Law clarifies the duty and qualification of nuclear operators in China. It notes the standards of the nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The Nuclear Accident Contingency Committee and the nuclear accident contingency process are also elaborated in the safety law. Besides, in-land nuclear power plant and coastal nuclear power plant are not differentiated in the law. This would imply that in-land nuclear power plant built in China will have to adhere to the same safety standard as coastal nuclear power plants.

An important point to note, it is also spelt out clearly in the nuclear safely law that no one (citizen, legal person, organization) can spread false nuclear accident information in China. The penalty for doing so will be up to CNY 5 million (USD760k). Other incidents such as radioactive pollution and betrayal by leaking confidential information, will also be subjected to severe financial penalties.

To give an example, Chinese nuclear power plant operators are supposed to apply for a permission from the State Council supervision department before proceeding with activities like nuclear power plant site selection, construction, operation, and decommissioning, Besides, the law also requires that each Chinese nuclear operator needs to set aside enough fund as an insurance for any nuclear accident contingency.

Government’s attitude towards nuclear safety law

This new-published China Nuclear Safety Law is a milestone in the legislation in China’s nuclear industry. The Deputy Director of China National Nuclear Safety Administration Guo Chengzhan commented: “China today is a large market for the nuclear industry, with the total installed capacity of nuclear energy is the third largest in the world, it is a tough task to keep the nuclear energy safe and secure in China. Thus, a constitution of the nuclear safety is essential and necessary to implement the guideline “operate nuclear by law” raised by the central government.”

As the feature of the Nuclear Safety Law, in my opinion “strict” is the best word to describe it. The Director of National Congress Legislation Office Tong Weidong said the Nuclear Safety Law is strict on the standards, strict on the regulations, strict on the supervision and strict on the punishment.

“China’s approach to nuclear security” has been written in the law

In 2014, during the third Nuclear Security Summit in Den Haag, Netherland, the Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward China’s approach to nuclear security for the first time, which provided an important and useful perspective to promote international nuclear security. It is to place the same emphasis on development and security, rights and obligations, independent and collaborative efforts, treating symptoms and addressing causes. The nuclear safety law is one of the best examples that implements the essence of Xi Jinping’s nuclear security approach. It also shows the serious attention from China’s central government on the nuclear industry development.

The importance of public participation in the nuclear industry

To the nuclear industry, information disclosure and public participation is one of the most important items to keep the industry developing in a healthy manner. In the nuclear safety law, there is one section focusing on this topic. It encourages the public to learn more information about the nuclear industry and to participate in the nuclear industry development, to not fear nuclear energy, and eventually increase the acceptance of nuclear energy in China. This shows the long-term determination of China’s government to develop the nuclear industry.

The publication of Nuclear Safety Law is that China is timely with the Chinese nuclear industry now with over 30 years’ experience of developing the nuclear energy. It has completed China’s nuclear industry system, for China connecting to the international nuclear market. It is a positive and encouraging signal to accelerate China’s nuclear industry development.

What are your thoughts on China’s Nuclear Safety Law?

Nuclear safety and security is a very important topic of China’s nuclear industry and it will be discussed during the 6th Asia Nuclear Business Platform, which will take place 9-10 May 2018 in Shanghai. For more information please contact zaf@industry-platform.com