Trust crisis threatens China nuclear power

2013-07-19 12:15
Nuclear plant.

Nuclear plant. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Hong Kong - As China pushes an aggressive expansion of nuclear power it is running into a major stumbling block - a breakdown of trust, post-Fukushima, in official assurances of public safety.

A plan to build a $6bn uranium processing plant in the southern province of Guangdong was cancelled this week after about a thousand people took to the streets demanding the project was scrapped over public health and environmental fears.

Beijing plans to plough tens of billions of dollars into the construction of dozens of nuclear power projects across the country by 2020, as part of efforts to reduce its reliance on dirty coal-fired power and cut air pollution.

Industry insiders blamed the cancellation of the project on poor communication and a lack of public education. They say if things do not improve more protests could spring up elsewhere, threatening those plans to build new reactors.

"The public consultation last only 10 days, which is way too short," said a top industry executive with knowledge of the matter. "The materials it provided about the project are also woefully inadequate." He declined to be identified as he was not authorised to publicly comment on the project.

Communication

The outcry highlighted growing scepticism in China over official assurances about safety following a series of food and pollution scandals.

In the internet age, in which the Chinese public is becoming increasingly vocal about their rights and mobilising on social networks, popular protests like the demonstrations in the city of Jiangmen against the processing plant suggest a wider backlash against nuclear power.

"If public communication is not done properly, it would have a major negative impact on China's future nuclear power development," said Lin Boqiang, professor and director of the China Centre for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University.

"Other people could learn from Jiangmen. The government should learn how to do effective communication with the public over major nuclear projects."

China has 15 nuclear reactors currently in service.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan, Beijing cut its 2020 nuclear power capacity target to 58 gigawatts (GW) from 80GW - 90GW. But the new goal still represents a nearly four-fold increase from the current capacity and makes China the world's largest nuclear market.

Foreign nuclear groups such as Toshiba Corp's Westinghouse and Areva have won multi-billion dollar contracts to build nuclear power plants in the world's second largest economy.

The uranium processing project in Jiangmen, near Hong Kong, was supposed to supply fuel to existing and future power plants in Guangdong, a major Chinese industrial powerhouse and a centre of nuclear energy expansion.

Protests

China has been buying stakes in uranium mines in Asia and Africa, but without the capacity to enrich and process the ore it will still be dependent on foreign firms to turn it into useable fuel.

Already, anti-nuclear activists in Hong Kong, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, have launched a petition this week to oppose further expansion of nuclear capacity in Guangdong, according to Frances Yeung, senior environmental affairs officer at Friends of the Earth's Hong Kong office.

Massive protests broke out in Hong Kong in the 1980s when China announced its plan to build the Daya Bay nuclear plant just across the border from the city, then under British rule. Fuelled by fears of nuclear accidents following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, more than one million signatures were collected to register public objections to the construction.

The Chinese government eventually built the plant, but the French-designed project suffered delays.

Power industry executives say that the Chinese state-run nuclear power companies and local governments lack the communication skills to reassure the public at a time of heightened fears about safety.

"I suspect that the Chinese have got a long way to go in developing public consultation before they site new facilities - and not just in nuclear," said Steve Kidd, former head of World Nuclear Association, now an industry consultant.
Read more on:    environment  |  nuclear
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!
This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is so much going on around you and inside your head. You may want to take your ideas to the next level. Romance may be...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.