Outcry Over Hush-Hush Nuclear Plans in Southern China

A complex of nuclear fuel facilities has been quietly planned in Heshan in China's southern Guangdong province, unleashing a wave of anger among Web users when local media brought the “high-risk” project to light.

The Nuclear Power Industry Park will provide uranium conversion for enrichment and fuel fabrication for nuclear power plants for Guangdong and other Asian countries. The total investment of the 299-hectare nuclear complex is about 40 billion yuan (seven billion US dollars) and it will begin to manufacture its first reactor fuel in 2020.

On July 4, 2013 Jiangmen City government announced [zh] a 10-day consultation period in its website in a low-profiled manner. Most Chinese netizens were unaware of the project until local newspaper, Nanfang Daily, picked up the story on July 10 and exposed that the Heshan government has signed the contract with China National Neclear Corp (CNNC) even though the project has not been approved by National Development and Reform Commission [zh] (NDRC).

The nuclear fuel complex is 120 km away from Hong Kong. Image from the Housenews. Non-commercial use.

The nuclear fuel complex is 120 km away from Hong Kong. Image from the Housenews. Non-commercial use.

Another newspaper, the First Financial Daily also ran an article criticizing [zh] the lack of public consultation on the project.

While the majority of people from the affected area were unaware of the ongoing consultation, the Heshan government claimed that people's silence means approval [zh].

Microbloggers on Sina Weibo are outraged by the government's attempt to conceal the high risk project from the public. In the news comment section [zh], “Nickname dry shrimp” (@虾米是昵称) highlighted the lack of procedure justice:


The public notice is too short. Another news story said that Heshan city leaders just wanted the project to kick off ASAP. Why can't you put forward the project for public deliberation and monitoring? Do the leaders have integrity at all?

“Rabbit's tear” (@兔仔的眼泪) criticized:


The officials who genuinely love our homeland will never agree on this project. Only those who love money will welcome this. We have so many Tofu-dreg projects in China and have no confidence in dealing with radiation. Nuclear contamination cannot be ignored. It not only pollutes the environment, poses security threats to local residents, but also affects our offsprings. Why should we accept a bomb in our neighborhood.

The project will not only affect Jiangmen but the whole Pearl River Delta, as @lionlee88 pointed out:


The project is located at the center of the Pearl River Delta next to Fushan, Zhaoxin and Zhuhai. It is 80 km away from Guangzhou city and 120 km away from Hong Kong. The officials only care about GDP and it is absolutely irresponsible to have such project carry out in such a high density area. It will affect so many people, yet the officials said silence means approval….

Instead of addressing people's concerns, the Heshan government blamed the public for being ignorant of the development of science and technologies that make nuclear fuel manufacture a no-risk operation, and quoting experts to back their claim. However, they did not cover the fact that uranium conversion runs the risk of chemical and radiological pollution through air and water in the process of gasification and liquidation.

To deliver the message of “zero pollution”, local governments from Heshan and Jiangmen have mobilized media outlets to “educate” the public. Jiangmen police's official microblog on Sina Weibo has been turned into [zh] a science education channel:


#Introduction to the Heshan Nuclear fuel project# Li Guike [CNNC's representative) said that China's nuclear fuel technology is very advanced. The Longwan Industrial park is the first time CNNC has adopted a one-stop processing industrial chain. Such an arrangement is to prevent the transportation of semi-finished products from other parts of China. Last year, the corporation had a scientific breakthrough and the Longwan Industrial Park will have zero pollution. There wouldn't be any water emission from the campus and the gas emitted into the atmosphere will be up to standard.

Netizens were highly skeptical of the “scientific knowledge” delivered by the Jiangmen police. Below is a selection of comments:


“Highly troubled secretary”: Can anyone tell me how come the police are involved in delivering knowledge about the manufacture of nuclear fuel?


“Tong Leung”: What we want to know is the potential risk of the project. In China, how many well-known corporations have lost their reputation? They also have a standard security procedure. Don't just tell me how safe or how absolutely safe the project is… we have right to know [the potential risks].


“One ticket solitude”: Some time ago experts said that we could grow 5,000 kilograms of rice in per Mu (614.4 square meter) of land. Some time ago, the highest quality milk companies which had been exempted from quality check had melamine in their milk powder. Some time ago, the bridge fell down and the experts blamed the truck for overloading. How can I ever trust experts again?


“VV Contest”: China is very backward in handling pollution. How can it handle nuclear waste properly? This is a science fiction, a joke and people's disaster.


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