Protests force China to nix plan for USD 6 billion nuke plant

Protests force China to nix plan for USD 6 billion nuke plant

China's ambitious plans to expand its nuclear power industry suffered a major setback as the government cancelled plans to build a USD 6 billion atomic fuel processing plant in southern Guangdong Province following rare public protests over the project's safety.

The planned Longwan Industrial Park project, located in Zhishan Township in the city of Heshan, has been cancelled, state-run Xinhua news agency today reported quoting the municipal government of Jiangmen, which administers Heshan, where the plant was to be built.

Many local residents expressed opposition to the project after it was made public by the Heshan government on July 4, said Wu Yuxiong, mayor of Heshan.
"The Heshan government respects the public's opinion and will not apply for approval for the project," Wu said.

The public's opposition was mainly due to safety worries and environmental concerns.
The planned industrial park, with a designed capacity of 1,000 tonnes of uranium in 2020, features facilities for uranium conversion, enrichment and manufacturing of nuclear fuel equipment, involving a total investment of 37 billion yuan (USD 6 billion), one of the biggest planned by China.

Most of China's nuclear fuel processing plants are currently based in western China, while China's nuclear power plants are mainly based in the eastern coastal region.
The cost and inefficiency of long-distance transportation of the fuel prompted the Longwan Industrial Park project.

There is a relatively greater number of nuclear power plants near Heshan, which therefore has more demand for nuclear fuel.

The geological conditions in Heshan are also stable, Chi Xuefeng, a nuclear expert told Xinhua.

The nuclear fuel will not produce much radiation and the manufacturing process will not create pollution, Zhao Yamin, a researcher with the Ministry of Environmental Protection said.

China is working on forming a complete industrial nuclear power system.
It has the greatest nuclear power capacity under construction of any country in the world.

This is the first nuclear project cancelled by China as it embarks on a massive expansion of nuclear power projects.

Public protests which are rare in China are now becoming common specially when it comes to preservation of environment.

Last year, China halted the construction of a copper alloy plant in Sichuan province following violent protests by local residents.

The cancellation of the Longwan plant also comes in the backdrop of a slowing economy which was expected to contract to 7.5 per cent this year from last year's 7.8 per cent amid reports of a liquidity crunch.

In March this year, China shook off concerns over nuclear safety after the nuclear crisis in Fukushima in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 and announced plans to increase its installed nuclear power generation capacity to 20 per cent this year.

By 2020, China will have the third-largest number of nuclear power-generating units in operation, following the United States and France, He Yu, Chairman of the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group said.

Nuclear power totalling 3.24 gigawatts (GW) will be added in 2013, previous reports of Xinhua quoted National Development and Reform Commission as saying.

According to a government white paper on energy released in October 2012, China had 15 nuclear power-generating units in operation with a total installed capacity of 12.54 GW with another 30 units currently under construction, which will add another 32.81 GW.

The October white paper stated that nuclear power only accounts for 1.8 per cent of China's total power output, far below the global average of 14 per cent.

China's nuclear power development came to a halt after the Fukushima disaster.

The country suspended approvals for new nuclear plants and carried out a nationwide safety review following the crisis.

The approvals were cautiously resumed in October 2012.

Comments (+)