Recently, besides the Olympic Games, another news which attracted massive attention in China was the protest in Lianyungang, a city 480 kilometers away from Shanghai in the north, against a nuclear waste processing plant which was planned by CNNC and AREVA. Residents in Lianyungang shouted slogans and waved banners outside government offices at the weekend to complain about the health impacts, which caused body conflict as well. So far, due to the strong objection, this project has been suspended by the local government.
On 11 August, Global Times which is one of the most important government media published a commentary: the failure (of government) in Lianyungang is the pain of China’s nuclear industry. This event has very serious consequence and bad influence in China.
What is the nuclear project and how is the protestation?
French nuclear fuel group Areva in 2012 agreed to cooperate with China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) to build a reprocessing facility in China, without identifying the location. Locals say that Lianyungang, a port city in Jiangsu province, is a prime candidate, because a large new nuclear power station is being built by CNNC nearby. What’s more, as a portal city, Lianyungang has very convenient transportation on shipping and rail, which allows the city to easily gather the spent fuel from different places.
Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in Lianyungang
“Building a nuclear waste processing plant in Lianyungang is a recipe for disaster for future generations, local people have a right to express anger,” a hotel worker who declined to be named said.
Pictures posted online showed locals massing in a public square surrounded by hundreds of police. The gathering people alleged that they were beaten by the police which resulted one death of them.
Why are people against nuclear in China?
By now, China has 34 nuclear power reactors in operation, and 20 under construction, and work about to start on more, which makes China the biggest nuclear growing country in the world.
However, safety fears grew following a series of meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011 that were intensely covered by China’s state-run media. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a report the same year that the country’s nuclear safety situation was “not optimistic”, and that the use of differing types of reactors in Chinese plants made the sector “difficult to manage”.
In addition, Chinese people are losing their trust of the government especially on this kind of big industrial project. Last year, a PX plant exploded in Zhangzhou which was proved safe by many experts and the local government, and the big blast in Tianjin in the last summer also raised up the worry of residents.
CNNC and Areva announced in 2015 about this CNY 10billion project
How will the public attitude influence the future of Chinese nuclear industry?
This Lianyungang protest is not the first time that Chinese citizens objected the government on a nuclear project. 2013 in Jiangmen, 50 km away from Taishan Nuclear Power Plant, a construction site of nuclear fuel processing factory was abandoned because of the resistance from local residents.
Public protects like Lianyungang and Jiangmen are definitely not good for the development of the nuclear industry to China. This is presently one of the biggest challenge that China need to overcome.
In my opinion, the key to the public acceptance in China is the average educated level about nuclear. As for most of Chinese the only resource to get knowledge of nuclear is reading news in which the most mentioned are nuclear accidents like Fukushima or Chernobyl. Thus, I praise that the Chinese companies like CNNC, CGN, SPIC all have their public communication events to let people get in touch with nuclear.
Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant opened for public visitors
What is your opinion towards the protest and public communication in the nuclear indsutry?
Nuclear power developments in Asia will be discussed during the 5th edition of Asia Nuclear Business Platform next May. For more information on this industry gathering, email [email protected]