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China’s government fears that anti-nuclear activism may become a national movement

logo-NO-nuclear-SmThe government in Beijing would be happy if anti-nuclear protests were to stay at the level of bickering between counties or even the occasional outburst of nimbyism, as in Jiangmen. But there is a risk that the success of Jiangmen residents in securing a change of heart could encourage others. “We can expect similar protests wherever a nuclear project is planned,” says Eva Sternfeld of Berlin’s Technical University, who has studied such activism.

flag-ChinaNuclear activism Limiting the fallout, The Economist A rare protest prompts the government to scrap plans to build a  uranium-processing plant. Is anti-nuclear activism on the rise? Jul 20th 2013 | PENGZE, JIANGXI PROVINCE |OPPOSE nuclear pollution”; “Give us back our green homeland”. So declared banners raised by some of the hundreds of protesters who took to the streets of Jiangmen city  in the southern province of Guangdong on July 12th. In a remarkable concession, the local government announced that it would heed their demands and abandon plans to build a uranium-processing facility. For officials in Beijing, keen to develop nuclear power and keep activism in check, the demonstration was an unsettling sign of potential
trouble.

The protest was the first known major public rally against a project involving the nuclear-power industry since China began building nuclear plants in the mid-1980s.On July 14th residents gathered again
outside Jiangmen’s government headquarters  , worried that
the $6 billion project nearby had merely been postponed. The city’s
Communist Party chief, Liu Hai, emerged to reassure the citizenry that
it had indeed been scrapped for good. It is rare in China for
officials to concede so rapidly to public concern about such a large
project. For one linked to nuclear power, it was unprecedented…….
Until nuclear disaster struck the Japanese plant at Fukushima in March
2011, hardly anyone in China challenged the government’s ambitions for
a rapid expansion of the nuclear industry…..
Fukushima changed the public mood. Social media, especially
Twitter-like weibo services, helped to spread distrust of nuclear
power. In response to this, as well as to a global reassessment of the
industry’s safety, the government called a temporary halt to nuclear
power-plant building. In October last year it allowed such projects to
resume, but said that work on about 30 of them that were to be built
inland would remain on hold until at least 2015. China’s reactors (now
numbering 17, some grouped together) are all along the coast, where
there is unlimited seawater to cool fuel rods and disperse radioactive
pollution in the event of an accident. The government cited public
opinion as a reason for the moratorium: a very new ingredient.

Plans to build a nuclear plant on the south bank of the Yangzi river
in Pengze county of Jiangxi province became a prominent topic of
public debate…….
The state-owned companies behind these projects, as well as
investment-hungry local governments, are not abandoning the idea of
building them….
) In June a senior government adviser on nuclear energy said inland
projects would “steadily” resume after 2015.

Residents of Mopan village on the opposite bank of the Yangzi are
worried. “People didn’t pay much attention before Fukushima. After
Fukushima there was terror,” says Hong Zengzhi, a doctor of Chinese
medicine who can see the Pengze site across the river from the balcony
of his clinic. Mr Hong says a village leader, who had disapproved of
his opposition to the plant before work began in 2009, apologised to
him after the disaster in Japan. Another villager, Wu Duorong, a
retired veterinarian, worries about contaminated water flowing into
the Yangzi. He penned a poem about the danger: “A river of springtime
water flows east; a few families take pleasure but a hundred million
mourn.”

Despite such local misgivings, anti-nuclear activism in China has
mostly remained low-key (with the recent exception of Jiangmen). Most
environmental NGOs in China, aware of the political sensitivity of
nuclear power, avoid the issue…….
Not in my front yard
The government in Beijing would be happy if anti-nuclear protests were to stay at the level of bickering between counties or even the occasional outburst of nimbyism, as in Jiangmen. But there is a risk that the success of Jiangmen residents in securing a change of heart could encourage others. “We can expect similar protests wherever a nuclear project is planned,” says Eva Sternfeld of Berlin’s Technical University, who has studied such activism.

As well as complicating China’s nuclear plans, such protests would
raise fears in Beijing of something more worrying: an anti-nuclear
movement becoming a cover for anti-government activity. Taiwan offers
a precedent. In the 1980s opponents of the island’s authoritarian
government rallied public support for their cause by tapping into
public concerns about nuclear power. The Communist Party does not want
to run that kind of risk.
http://www.economist.com/news/china/21582016-rare-protest-prompts-government-scrap-plans-build-uranium-processing-plant

July 19, 2013 - Posted by | China, opposition to nuclear

1 Comment »

  1. […] China’s government fears that anti-nuclear activism may become a national movement (nuclear-news.net) […]

    Pingback by China’s nuclear power ambitions threatened by public trust | China Daily Mail | July 22, 2013 | Reply


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