China’s economic advances have come at a terrible cost to its environment.
The evidence is in its air, in the rivers and coastal waters, and in the vast tracts of farmlands so contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides that some senior offi- cials have warned they should never be used for food production. In 2014, a report by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection noted almost 20 per cent of the country’s arable land is polluted.
Criminally lax regulations, corruption and widespread failures to enforce breaches of environmental laws add to the woes and fuel justifiable anger among Chinese people. But more than any other environmental disaster in China (and there have been far too many), the series of explosions that ripped through the major port of Tianjin last week galvanised attention on the awful risks of elevating profit goals and economic advancement above the environment and citizens’ safety……….. http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-age-editorial/tianjin-blast-must-trigger-real-change-in-china-20150817-gj19t1.html#ixzz3jClGQ9na
China warehouse explosion: Tianjin workers race to clear site of deadly chemicals before it rains Fears potential showers could create clouds of toxic gas. Chinese officials face a race against time to clear toxic chemicals from the site of the Tianjin warehouse explosion, amid fears the blast may have released hundreds of tons of toxic gas into the air.
Soldiers have joined rescue workers in gas masks and hazard suits in the port city where the death toll from Wednesday’s massive explosion has risen to 112. Another 95, the majority of whom were firefighters, remained missing.
Officials confirmed the warehouse where the blast occurred was used to house more than 100 tons of sodium cyanide, a potentially deadly substance.
The presence of the chemicals was confirmed by Shi Luze, the chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army’s Beijing Military Region.
He said workers were trying to clear the area before possible rain showers, which could create toxic gas……..http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-warehouse-explosion-tianjin-workers-race-to-clear-site-of-deadly-chemicals-before-rains-10457786.html
China’s censors crack down on online chatter about the Tianjin explosions, Shanghaiist.com, 16 Aug 15 Aside from some wind-related misinformation leaking through, China’s censors have managed to maintain that tight control of the Chinese internet we have come to expect following disasters like the Tianjin explosions, liberally expunging thousands upon thousands of “dangerous” tweets.
Many Weibo posters have claimed that their posts on the disaster have “disappeared”. With just two days gone by since the blast and so little reliable information available, it is hard to discern if China’s PR team are simply deleting inaccurate and potentially harmful rumors—like that pollutants from the explosions will be blown to Beijing—or are harmonizing potentially inconvenient truths.
The top 10 most censored terms on Free Weibo, which captures all messages censored or deleted on the social media platform, are almost entirely made up of some combination of “Tianjin” and “explosion.”……..
China Digital Times has published Chinese media directives about how best to report/bury the disaster: “Remove news and images from the explosions from headlines.” Reporters are also forbidden to write posts about the explosions on their personal Weibo and WeChat accounts.
However, some conversations are still allowed to go on…….http://shanghaiist.com/2015/08/14/chinas-censors-crack-down-online-chatter-tianjin-explosion.php
“the state of conservation” of large components like pumps and steam generators at Taishan “was not at an adequate level” and was “far” from the standards of the two other EPR plants, one in Finland and the other in Flamanville, France
in a rare public comment about safety concerns, China’s own State Council Research Office three years ago warned that the development of the country’s power plants may be accelerating too quickly.
Critics of China’s nuclear safety regime, including Albert Lai, chairman of The Professional Commons, a Hong Kong think tank, says that lack of information risks eroding confidence in safety controls in what’s set to be a 14-fold increase of atomic capacity by 2030.
“The workings of China’s atomic safety authority are a ‘‘total black box,’’ said Lai. ‘‘China has no transparency whatsoever.’’
China Regulators ‘Overwhelmed’ as Reactors Built at Pace, Bloomberg Tara Patel, Benjamin Haas , June 20, 2014 (Bloomberg) — China is moving quickly to become the first country to operate the world’s most powerful atomic reactor even as France’s nuclear regulator says communication and cooperation on safety measures with its Chinese counterparts are lacking.
In the coastal city of Taishan, 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the financial hub of Hong Kong, Chinese builders are entering the final construction stages for two state-of-the-art European Pressurized Reactors. Each will produce about twice as much electricity as the average reactor worldwide.
France has a lot riding on a smooth roll out of China’s EPRs. The country is home to Areva SA, which developed the next-generation reactor, and utility Electricite de France SA, which oversees the project. The two companies, controlled by the French state, need a safe, trouble-free debut in China to ensure a future for their biggest new product in a generation. And French authorities have not hidden their concerns. Continue reading
Tianjin explosions ignite barrage of questions, The Age, Philip Wen China correspondent for Fairfax Media, August 14, 2015 Tianjin: As fatalities continue to mount, so too have questions around the cause, response and potential health effects of the terrifying explosions at a toxic chemicals warehouse that tore through the port city of Tianjin, China, on Wednesday night.
Chinese authorities have dispatched more than 200 military nuclear and biochemical materials specialists to the site of the blast, as well as a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Beijing environmental emergency response centre.
But some 36 hours after the explosions, municipal and environmental officials said they were still unable to determine the specific substances held in the warehouse which likely triggered the blast which killed dozens, injured hundreds, and ignited a fireball so large it was captured by orbiting satellites.
The owner of the warehouse, Ruihai International Logistics, is a firm which specialises in handling hazardous cargo, state news agency Xinhua said. It is licensed to handle dangerous and toxic chemicals including sodium cyanide, compressed natural gas, phosphoric acid, potassium nitrate and butanone – an explosive industrial solvent.
“So far, we are not able to provide the detail of type and amount of these dangerous items,” Gao Huaiyou, the deputy director of Tianjin’s work safety administration bureau, said on Thursday. “There is quite a big inconsistency with information provided by the company’s management and their customs declaration.”
Though a pungent smell and visible smog hung in the vicinity of the blast, officials said 17 emergency air monitoring stations indicated air quality in the city remained within a normal range, aided by easterly winds which blew toxic plumes from the fires out to sea.
Readings of cyanide and chemical oxygen demand – a measure of water quality – some three to eight times normal levels were detected near two underground discharge pipes, though officials said the pipes had been sealed off and posed no danger to health or the environment of the surrounding area.
Xinhua said 1000 firefighters and more than 140 fire trucks were struggling to contain the blaze in a warehouse which stored “dangerous goods”.
“The volatility of the goods means the fire is especially unpredictable and dangerous to approach,” it said….http://www.theage.com.au/world/tianjin-explosions-ignite-barrage-of-questions-20150814-gizjw9.html#ixzz3ir0wfaMy
Most Chinese rare earth miners running at a loss — report, Mining.com Cecilia Jamasmie | August 12, 2015 About 90% of China’s rare earth producers are currently operating at a loss as prices for the coveted elements — used in high-tech sectors — continue to drop due to overcapacity and illegal mining.
According to the Association of China Rare Earth Industry, local companies have been losing money for months and many are expected to close up shop before year-end.
Chen Zhanheng, the group’s deputy secretary-general, told China Daily the main issues weighing on the market are oversupply and illegal mining.
Many companies rushed into rare earth mining and production business when prices were high, he told the paper, producing much more than what the market really needed.
“Rare earths are not as difficult to mine and process as many seem to think, so many illegal miners are bypassing regulations to dig and smelt the metals. This, in turn, has led to a glut in the market,” he said.
The situation has not only affected small producers. The country’s six largest rare earth miners are also feeling the pinch, according to Investorintel:
Xiamen Tungsten, for instance, reported a sharp drop in its net profit in the first half of 2015, the company’s rare earth business has suffered a loss of $11.5 million during the period, $8.8 million more than the year before. Guangdong Rising Nonferrous is forecast to lose $5 to $6 million, down about 600% when compared to the $1 million reported last year last year. China Minmetals Rare Earth expected its net profits in the first half to stand at up to $470,000.
End of a monopoly
Until 2010, China controlled around 97% of the supply of the coveted metals, used in advanced electronics, defense and renewable energy. But when it sought to impose export controls to give an advantage to domestic electronics producers, prices soared by up to 20 or 30 times previous levels.
Attractive prices encouraged investment in the sector in the U.S., Australia and other places outside China. But, at the same time, it fired up smuggling from the Asian nation and a consequent drop in prices.
Rare earths were further battered earlier this year, when China scrapped export tariffs, which had inflated international prices, after a World Trade Organization ruling.
Now market observers are saying that prices for the 17 sought-after elements should start picking up by year-end. However, they also warn that a glut of supplies, including from illegal mines and smuggling in China, could cause the market to crash back down.
Investment confidence has been badly hit by the poor performances of the two major producers outside China — Molycorp (NYSE:MCP-A) and Lynas Corp (ASX:LYC).
Canadian rare earth companies have also shed nearly all of their value in the last few years. Shares of Avalon Rare Metals (TSE:AVL) are down 96% from their 2011 high, while Quest Rare Minerals’ (TSE:QRM) stocks have dropped about the same, since March 2012.
Meanwhile, China continues to restrict the number of firms allowed to produce and export rare earths. This means there will remain a significant supply bottleneck that is likely to encourage smuggling as well as illegal production in the nation, with the feared consequences in prices. [excellent graph on original] http://www.mining.com/most-chinese-rare-earth-miners-running-at-a-loss-report/
Chemical, nuclear experts testing Tianjin blast site, Aljazeera America, Military has begun work on the ground in China’s northern port city where two explosions killed at least 55 dead August 14, 2015 China has sent chemical experts into Tianjin to test for toxic gases after a series of deadly explosions.
The team of nuclear and chemical experts is on the ground on Friday in the northern port city of Tianjin, the scene of two massive explosions that have left at least 55 people dead. Seventeen of the dead were from among the more than 1,000 firefighters sent to the mostly industrial zone to fight the ensuing blaze, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The chemical experts were testing the area for toxic gases, the official news agency Xinhua said, adding that the death toll had climbed to 55, with 701 admitted to hospital.
The team of 217 nuclear and biochemical materials specialists from the Chinese military began work at the site on Thursday.
The explosions at a warehouse for hazardous chemicals in the Chinese port of Tianjin on Wednesday raised questions about the whether the materials had been properly stored. Windows were shattered for miles around by the shockwaves, and the explosions were so big they were seen by satellites in space and registered on earthquake sensors.
Officials in Tianjin said they did not yet know what materials were at the hazardous goods storage facility where the explosions happened, or the cause of the blast.
But the Beijing News reported earlier that according to manufacturers, at least 700 ton of sodium cyanide were at the site, along with other substances, and the poisonous chemical had been detected in sewage samples in the area.
The report was no longer available on the newspaper’s website on Friday………..
ianjin is the 10th largest port in the world by container volume, according to the World Shipping Council, and the seventh-biggest in China. It handles vast amounts of metal ore, coal, steel, cars and crude oil.
Ships carrying oil and “hazardous products” were barred from the port Thursday, the Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration said on its official microblog. It also said vessels were not allowed to enter the central port zone, which is near the blast site.
State media said senior management of the company had been detained, and that President Xi Jinping demanded severe punishment for anyone found responsible for the explosions……..
As is customary during disasters, Chinese authorities tried to keep a tight control over information. Police kept journalists and bystanders away with a cordon about a mile from the site. On China’s popular microblogging platform of Weibo, some users complained that their posts about the blasts were deleted, and the number of searchable posts on the disaster fluctuated, in a sign that authorities were manipulating or placing limits on the number of posts.
The Tianjin government said that because of the blasts it had suspended online access to public corporate records. These records might be used to trace the ownership of Ruihai. It was not clear whether the blackout was due to technical damage related to the explosion. No one answered the phone at the Tianjin Market and Quality Supervision Administration or the Tianjin Administration for Industry and Commerce on Thursday.
Ruihai Logistics said on its website — before it was shut down — that it was established in 2011 and is an approved company for handling hazardous materials. It said it handles 1 million tons of cargo annually……..http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/8/13/at-least-50-dead-and-hundreds-injured-in-chinese-warehouse-explosion.html
TIANJIN, China (AP) — Huge explosions at a warehouse for … ore which could supply its nuclear weapons program or fuel nuclear reactors, …–
The blasts ripped through a warehouse storing “dangerous goods” in Tianjin’s Binhai New Area around 11:30 p.m. local time, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. http://www.wsj.com/articles/huge-blast-rocks-chinese-city-1439403843
China builds huge solar power station which could power a million homes, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/china-builds-huge-solar-power-station-which-could-power-a-million-homes-10446840.html The Independent, ALEXANDRA SIMS, 08 August 2015 China is set to build a giant solar power station in the Gobi desert, which could generate enough energy to supply one million homes. The proposed power station will measure 10 square miles and generate 200 megawatts of solar energy.
The plans will fall in line with the Chinese government’s ambitious initiative to reduce the country’s fossil fuel energy by 20 per cent by 2030 in addition to cutting its green house gas emissions.
Construction began six years ago on the country’s first large –scale power station, according to National Geographic.Recent photos from NASA satelites show that the solar panels making up the plant cover an area roughly three times bigger than was seen three years ago.
China is quickly becoming a world leader in solar power.
According to the International Energy Agency, the country produces two-thirds of all solar panels and it gained more solar capacity than any other country in the world last year. China invested $83.3 billion dollars last year into renewable energy, more than any other country, according to a report from the UN Environment programme.
The United States, despite being the second highest investors in renewable energies, invested less than half this amount.
Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute told National Geographic: “China is largely motivated by its strong national interests to tackle persistent air pollution problems, limit climate impacts and expand its renewable energy job force.”
She added that China, presently the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases, will be able to meet its pledge if it continues with its new emphasis on renewables.Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said: “China’s carbon dioxide emission will peak by around 2030 and China will work hard to achieve the target at an even earlier date,” according to Reuters.
A global boom in solar power could be on the cards, according toBloomberg New Energy Finance, as panels get cheaper and batteries become more advanced.
By 2040, they predict, in moves led partly by China, solar power could account for one-third of new electricity.
Typhoon Soudelor toll rises to 17 in China: state media http://news.yahoo.com/typhoon-downgraded-china-killing-five-taiwan-030301544.htmlShanghai (AFP) – The number of people killed by Typhoon Soudelor in China rose to 17, state media reported on Monday, with five more missing.
Three people were killed by a mudslide and one was missing after being swept away by floods in Ningde, in the eastern province of Fujian, the Fujian Daily reported.
In neighbouring Zhejiang province 14 were killed and four were missing, the official news agency Xinhua said earlier, quoting local officials as saying that the dead and missing may have been washed away by floods or buried under ruined homes.
The total direct economic losses in the two provinces were estimated at around eight billion yuan ($1.31 billion), figures from state media showed.
Billed as the biggest typhoon of the year last week with winds of up to 230 kilometres (140 miles) an hour, Soudelor — named for a Micronesian chief — has since weakened.
It made landfall in Fujian on Saturday night after leaving six people dead in Taiwan — including two twin sisters and their mother, who had all been swept out to sea.
It also knocked out power to a record four million households on the island. [Taiwan’s nukes in danger from typhoon,too]
Some 379 people were injured by the storm in Taiwan, which saw rivers break their banks under torrential rain and towering waves pound the coastline.
The China Meteorological Administration lifted its typhoon warning Monday as the storm weakened and moved further inland.
China builds huge solar power station which could power a million homes, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/china-builds-huge-solar-power-station-which-could-power-a-million-homes-10446840.html
The principle radioactive poison that is being tested for in Japanese foods is cesium-137. Unfortunately, there are also other deadly poisons that have been spewed in lesser amounts by Fukushima disaster. These include americium-241, plutonium-236, uranium-238, thorium-232 and the extremely dangerous isotope, strontium-90. All of these contaminants may also be found in food from Japan, including in baby formula.
Fukushima Baby Milk Formula Declared Unfit by China http://www.huntingtonnews.net/11938 August 5, 2015 – BY JOHN LAFORGE Chinese authorities seized more than 881 pounds of baby milk formula that had been imported from Japan because it had been produced in areas known to be heavily contaminated with radioactive material emitted by three damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi complex. Continue reading
Climate change threatens China’s booming coastal cities, says expert, Guardian, Peng Yining , 25 July 15
With an ageing society and more people living by the coast, China faces a challenge coping with climate change, reports China Daily A recent study led by Georgina Mace, ecosystem professor at University College London, indicated that governments across the world have failed to grasp the risk that population booms in coastal cities pose as climate change continues to cause rises in sea levels and extreme weather events. Mace is director of the UCL Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research.
Mace says population growth in coastal areas can lead to big increases in exposure to extreme weather. The biggest direct effect of projected climate change is heat waves. The number of people dying from extreme heat could increase twelvefold by the end of this century, as a result of global warming combined with increasing numbers living in affected areas.
“People are increasingly living in the wrong places, and the demographic shift in China is enormous. China has a lot of old people who are vulnerable to extreme weather,” says Mace………
The commission also released a report in July indicating that by 2030, China will have 230 million rural residentswho have relocated to urban areas and the urbanisation rate will reach 70%.
Increased urbanisation will also exacerbate the effects of climate change, particularly among elderly citizens who are more vulnerable to extreme weather, Mace said recently at the release of the latest climate change report commissioned by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The report, drawn up by experts from UK, the United States, China and India, demonstrated risks triggered by climate change, including extreme weather and social instability, and also stressed the potential impact on coastal areas caused by rising sea levels
“The reason we chose to work with China is very much because of the population factor. The eastern coastal region is highly populated, and the sea level is rising. That could be a big challenge,” says David King, the UK foreign secretary’s special representative for climate change, who led the project……… http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/25/climate-change-threatens-chinas-booming-coastal-cities-says-expert
Drought and earthquakes pose “enormous risk” to China’s nuclear plans, China Dialogue Wang Yi’nan 27.02.2013
China’s nuclear industry is shifting inland, away from the crowded coast. It’s a risky move, argues Wang Yi’nan When the Fukushima nuclear disaster struck, China was building new nuclear power capacity at a rate unprecedented in world history: 40% of all reactors planned or under construction were in China. Targets for installed nuclear generation capacity by 2020 were raised repeatedly – from 40 gigawatts in 2007 to 80 gigawatts in 2010.
Preparations were also under way for more than 20 inland nuclear power plants. The 41-plus gigawatts of capacity already completed or under construction lies along China’s seaboard. Space is running out.
But Fukushima sent shockwaves through the nuclear industry. In China, focus shifted from the speed and scale of expansion to questions of safety and quality. The government placed a moratorium on approvals for new nuclear plants, which lasted for more than a year, a period during which debate on what to do raged – over safety, scale of expansion, technology, site locations and, most crucially, whether or not the process of considering applications to build new inland nuclear power plants should be restarted.
China’s nuclear moratorium may have been lifted, but those arguments continue today……..China’s realities warn against inland nuclear development.
Figures from the China Earthquake Administration’s Institute of Geology show that, since 1900, China has been hit by almost 800 earthquakes of magnitude six or above, causing destruction in all regions except Guizhou, Zhejiang and Hong Kong. Despite having only 7% of the world’s landmass, China – where three tectonic plates meet – gets more than a third of all strong continental earthquakes.
Moreover, China’s per-head freshwater resources are only one quarter of the global average. Inland nuclear power plants require a failsafe, 100% reliable and never-ending supply of water for cooling. Even if a reactor stops operating it still requires water to carry off heat. If the water dries up, we could see a Fukushima-style disaster, with terrible consequences: radioactive pollutants released into nearby rivers and lakes, affecting the safety of water on which hundreds of millions rely.
In June last year, Reuters covered a report by European and US scientists on the vulnerabilities of nuclear and thermal power to climate change. According to the report, “under climate change, a lack of water for cooling is severely restricting generating capacity at nuclear power plants in the EU and US. In the summer seasons of 2003 to 2009, many inland nuclear power plants were forced to shut down due to a lack of cooling water.”
The authors predicted that “due to a lack of water for cooling, between 2030 and 2060 nuclear and thermal generating capacity will drop 4-16% in the US, and 6-19% in the EU,” and went on to stress that “opting to build nuclear and other thermal power plants by the sea is an effective and important strategy to cope with climate change.”
China is densely populated and prone to both drought and earthquakes, making the development of inland nuclear power inadvisable. It has also long sought to emulate the EU and US, regions which have now realised the outlook for inland nuclear power is bleak. China should not make the same mistake………
Safety standards still not being met
Moreover, there are still limits to China’s ability to run nuclear power plants.
During the State Council’s safety audit of 41 reactors in operation or under construction, some plants and fuel recycling facilities were found not to meet new safety standards for flood and earthquake resilience, while some plants did not have procedures for preventing or mitigating major accidents. Others had not evaluated tsunami risks and responses.
The Taishan Nuclear Power Plant has no guidelines for managing a major accident, for example. The Taishan No.2 reactor, Ling’Ao and Tianwan Nuclear Power Plants have procedures only for certain types of major accident……..
China has better and more realistic options to relieve energy shortages and cut emissions. These include more efficient use of resources including coal; the promotion of energy-saving techniques such as the use of energy performance contracting(where energy savings from new buildings systems pay for the cost of a building renewal project) a tool which, if used in China as it is in the EU, would save the equivalent of several Three Gorges Dams’ worth of energy.
Comprehensive clean-energy solutions, incorporating solar power, wind power, bioenergy, pumped-storage hydropower and natural gas peak power plants, can provide China with the clean, reliable and efficient energy it needs for a new type of industrialisation.
China’s development must be built on genuinely safe, reliable, clean and efficient energy. Blindly opting for nuclear power in response to energy shortages and emissions pressures is to drink from a poisoned chalice. https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/5746-Drought-and-earthquakes-pose-enormous-risk-to-China-s-nuclear-plans
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