MAC: Mines and Communities

China: Thousands protest against nuclear waste project

Published by MAC on 2016-08-16
Source: Scmp.com, Nytimes.com (2016-08-11)

Demonstrations in Lianyungang broke out after rumors spread that the area had been chosen as the site for a nuclear fuel processing and recycling plant, to be built by the China National Nuclear Corporation in cooperation with the French company Areva.

China has 35 nuclear reactors in operation and 20 under construction, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

 

Residents come out in force to protest against Sino-French nuclear project

Rumours that Lianyungang, Jiangsu province will be site of plant sparks rally in city.

Laura Zhou

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2000561/residents-come-out-force-protest-against-sino-french

8 August, 2016

Residents in Lianyungang in Jiangsu province ignored police warnings and filled a square for a demonstration over rumours the city would be the site of a Sino-French nuclear project.

The rally over a used-nuclear-fuel processing and recycling plant underscored the tension ­between public concern over ­nuclear safety and the growing pressure on China to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

The scene appeared to turn tense on Sunday night, the second night of the protest, with pictures posted on Weibo claiming to show police in riot gear, and messages claiming police scuffled with demonstrators. The claim could not be independently verified.

The Lianyungang city government also issued a statement late on Sunday, saying the site for the project was still being deliberated. The government pledged to ­ensure transparency and consult the public, but also warned it would deal with rumour-mongers severely.

Residents started to gather in a square downtown on Saturday night, with some chanting the slogan “boycott nuclear waste”, videos and photos circulating on mainland social ­media showed.

“The government only highlights the mass investment in the project and its economic benefit, but never mentions a word about safety or health concerns,” a local resident surnamed Ding told the Post by phone. “We need to voice our ­concerns, that’s why we went on our protests,” he said.

Police had issued a warning late on Friday saying that the demonstration organiser had not applied for the gathering, and calling on residents not to be misled by information circulating on the internet. Large numbers of police officers were also deployed to the demonstration venue.

Saturday’s demonstration appeared to be peaceful, with no reported conflicts.

Meanwhile over the weekend, the country conducted its first comprehensive nuclear-emergency drill, which aimed to test and improve responses to nuclear ­incidents, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, Xinhua reported.

Dubbed Storm-2016, the drill had no pre-planned scripts or ­expected results, Xinhua added.

China’s ambition to develop nuclear power was briefly hampered in 2011, after Beijing suspended approval for new nuclear power stations and started to conduct nationwide safety checks of all projects in the wake of the ­disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

The moratorium was lifted last year when at least two nuclear power plants, including one in ­Lianyungang, were given the green light for construction.

The nation’s five-year plan covering 2016 to 2020 calls for a dramatic increase in non-fossil-fuel energy sources, with six to eight new nuclear plants to be built each year.

China has 35 nuclear reactors in operation and 20 under construction, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Six provinces – including Guangdong, Shandong , ­Fujian, Zhejiang and Gansu – the only inland province – are listed as candidates for the Sino-French project, according to China Business News.

However, public anger was triggered late last month when comments on a government news website hinted that Lianyungang would be the site of the new project. According to CNNC’s website, the plant was to be the biggest ever project between China and France, and would be built by CNNC using technology from ­Areva, France’s state-owned maker of nuclear reactors.



Thousands in Eastern Chinese City Protest Nuclear Waste Project

CHRIS BUCKLEYAUG

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/09/world/asia/china-nuclear-waste-protest-lianyungang.html?_r=0

August 8, 2016

BEIJING — China’s efforts to expand its nuclear power sector suffered a backlash in one eastern seaboard city over the weekend, as thousands of residents took to the streets to oppose any decision to build a reprocessing plant in the area for spent nuclear fuel.

The government of Lianyungang, a city in Jiangsu Province, tried to calm residents on Sunday, a day after thousands of people defied police warnings and gathered near the city center, chanting slogans, according to Chinese news reports and photographs of the protests shared online.

They chanted “no nuclear fuel recycling project,” the state-run Global Times reported, citing footage from the scene. “It is unsafe to see another nuclear project coming and besieging us,” one resident told the paper.

Residents used WeChat, a popular Chinese messaging service, to share video footage showing downtown Lianyungang at night crowded with hundreds of people, many of them middle-aged, walking down a broad street in waves and chanting loudly, “Oppose nuclear waste, defend our home.”

The city government responded with the mix of reassurances and warnings that Chinese officials often use in the face of protests over pollution and environmental concerns. “Currently, the project is still at the stage of preliminary assessment and comparing potential sites, and nothing has been finally decided,” the city government said in a statement issued on Sunday.

But officials did not rule out that the site chosen might be somewhere near Lianyungang, and they warned against any renewed protests. “The relevant departments will use the law to strike hard against a tiny number of lawbreakers who concoct and spread rumors and disturb the social order,” the city government said.

On Monday, there were no signs of renewed demonstrations in the city. But the residents had made their point: Another possible building block of China’s nuclear power expansion had come under passionate public attack, defying the police warnings and government attempts to defuse alarm.

The Chinese government has said that it will accelerate building nuclear power and processing plants to wean the economy more quickly off coal. In March, the national legislature endorsed a five-year plan that promises to push forward with more nuclear power plants and a reprocessing plant for used fuel from China’s growing number of reactors. Japan also has plans to open a reprocessing plant.

But in Lianyungang and elsewhere, fears over the safety of nuclear power — magnified by the Fukushima calamity in Japan in 2011 — could frustrate those plans.

Lianyungang is just 20 miles southwest of a coastal nuclear power plant at Tianwan, which has two units operating, two under construction and approval to build two more. But the idea that used nuclear fuel might be reprocessed in the area seemed to renew anxieties about radiation risks.

A 2010 survey of 1,616 residents in the area already showed widespread apprehension about the Tianwan plant: 83.5 percent of respondents said they “worried about improper handling of nuclear waste.”

Complaints over industrial pollution, waste incinerators, toxic soil and other environmental issues have become one of the biggest causes of mass protest in China. And nuclear facilities have also become a source of worry for many.

In July 2013, officials in southern China shelved plans for a nuclear fuel fabrication plant after hundreds of nearby residents protested. Proposals for new nuclear power stations have also been met by online denunciations and petitions.

The demonstrations in Lianyungang broke out on Saturday after rumors spread that the area had been chosen as the site for a nuclear fuel processing and recycling plant to be built by the China National Nuclear Corporation, in cooperation with a French company, Areva. The companies have said construction would start in 2020 and be finished by 2030.

The companies have not reported settling on a site, nor have they revealed many other details about the proposed plant. But when China’s premier, Li Keqiang, visited France in June of last year, the companies agreed “to finalize the negotiations in the shortest possible time frame.”

Last month, a unit of the China National Nuclear Corporation said on its website that managers had visited Lianyungang to “study the proposed site.” That news appeared to sow alarm among some residents, who in addition to the street protests have taken to social media and online forums to voice opposition to the idea.

On Sina.com Weibo, a popular Chinese site that works like Twitter, messages have sprung up using a picture of a face in a heavy protective mask holding up a nuclear radiation sign with a red X across it. “The people of Lianyungang don’t want radiation,” the picture says.

The China National Nuclear Corporation’s nuclear fuel reprocessing unit said on its website on Saturday that the proposed plant would help the country become a “nuclear strong power.” But it emphasized that a site had not been chosen. It said places in six provinces, including Jiangsu, were under consideration.

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