Public opposition defuses nuclear plans

Updated: 2013-08-23 08:09

By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)

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Public opposition defuses nuclear plans

Ma Xuejing/China Daily

Risk assessments lead to stricter requirements, reports Qiu Quanlin in Heshan, Guangdong province.

Xiao Jianliang returned to work on his farmland shortly after plans to build a nuclear fuel facility in his village were dropped.

"The land was earmarked for the plant two months ago, but we haven't been paid compensation because the project was canceled. So we have to quickly begin planting crops on the land," he said.

The Longwan Industrial Park project, which was to be situated in the area around Heshan, a city in the Pearl River Delta region, was planned as a facility for uranium conversion, enrichment and the manufacture of nuclear fuel equipment.

However, following opposition by a majority of residents, the local government announced on July 13 that the project had been canceled and that it will not reapply for approval to start construction at a later date.

Xiao, 54, who lives in Lianzhu, the site of the planned project, said that residents initially hadn't displayed a great deal of concern about the project, even when the local government began claiming their land earlier this year.

"They (the local government) promised to pay us for the land. But a large number of residents expressed strong opposition because of the possible environmental risks," he said.

The project was dropped followed criticism from residents in the Pearl River Delta region after the local authorities issued a public notice announcing a "risk to social stability" assessment on the project on July 4.

The planned facility, jointly owned by China General Nuclear Power Corp and China National Nuclear Corp, the main body of the national nuclear technology industry, is just 30 kilometers from the heart of Jiangmen city, which administers Heshan.

"The real pressure came from opposition by residents in the delta region. They knew very little about the project and were concerned about the potential risks to the local environment," said a Heshan government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Concerns about possible nuclear leaks and environmental pollution spread rapidly online in the wake of the risk assessment notice, the official said.

Residents of Jiangmen and other nearby cities "took a walk" on the streets to protest the project. They carried banners and wore T-shirts bearing slogans calling for a halt to the proposed facility.

"We had planned a period of 10 days to canvass public opinion and conduct the social stability risk assessment. But that wasn't enough time for us to promote understanding of nuclear fuel," admitted the official.

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