Nuclear processing site suspended
A coastal city in eastern China on Wednesday backed away from its selection of a site for a Sino-French nuclear waste processing plant, after days of protests by residents.
Since Saturday, thousands of people concerned about safety took to the streets of Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, to protest the proposed 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) plant.
The local government said on its website on Wednesday that the city would “suspend the site selection and preliminary work on the nuclear recycling project”. No other details were given.
French nuclear fuel group Areva and China National Nuclear Corp signed a deal for the project in 2012 for processing spent fuel produced by nuclear power plants.
Construction is scheduled to start in 2020, with completion by 2030. But the location has yet to be decided.
A media report on July 26 said that a deputy director of the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense, accompanied by CNNC executives, were inspecting Lianyungang as a possible location for the plant. The report drew huge public attention and local people protested.
“The final site will be decided by the central government after being scientifically researched, released to the public and supported by the local government,” Xue Weiming, general manager of the CNNC’s Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Co, was quoted as saying by Science Daily on Wednesday.
He added that radiation risks in the nuclear reprocessing program are low and the influence on the environment and nearby residents can be controlled.
However, Chen Yong, a teacher at the city’s Huaihai Institute of Technology, said it’s the transportation process, not the nuclear reprocessing technology, that he is worried about.
“Nobody can give assurances that the spent nuclear waste is 100 percent safe during transportation, as people are needed to lift it, unload it and drive it during the process,” Zhang said.
“People have a right to worry about their safety and demand that the dangerous material is not in their backyard,” he said. “The government should communicate with the public patiently and earn their trust on the program.”
The city government promised earlier this week that it would release accurate information about the plant to the public in a timely manner. It also said that anyone who fabricates information or spreads rumors will be punished.
Lianyungang, about 500 kilometers north of Shanghai, is a port city with a population of 4.5 million.
Tianwan Nuclear Power Station, with two Russian-designed reactors, is located there. Two more units are being built.
The Chinese mainland now has 34 nuclear power plants in operation, 20 under construction and more planned, according to the World Nuclear Association.
Founded in 2011, Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Co is responsible for preliminary work in the China-France nuclear recycling program that is supported by both countries. Since 2015, it has researched about 10 sites in coastal provinces, including Shandong, Fujian and Zhejiang.
People have a right to worry about their safety and demand that the dangerous material is not in their backyard.” Chen Yong, teacher at Huaihai Institute of Technology