Govt information key to easing public concerns over inland nuclear power plants

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/13 23:48:40

A media report saying that China is likely to restart the development of inland nuclear power plants attracted a lot of attention on Monday due to people's negative perceptions and doubts on nuclear safety. In order to ensure the smooth development of nuclear power, which is directly related to promoting energy conservation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the government has to do a better job of explaining the pros and cons of nuclear power to avoid social unrest.

A lack of understanding of nuclear energy is the reason behind public safety concerns. It is understandable that no one wants to live near a nuclear plant due to worries over the impact of nuclear radiation. However, studies have shown that the yearly amount of radiation absorbed by staff working in nuclear power plants is similar to the hourly radiation levels absorbed by plane passengers. Today, more than half of all nuclear reactors operating across the world are located inland but we haven't heard of people that live around the plants suffering from diseases related radiation exposure.

The Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan teaches us that there is no absolute guarantee of safety in developing nuclear energy. However, an earthquake and tsunami triggered that catastrophe. Additionally, the age of the Fukushima nuclear power plant was another reason behind the crisis. In China, senior officials have pledged that the government is capable of ensuring the safety of operations of inland nuclear power plants. For instance, the government has established strict geological condition requirements for nuclear sites to ensure reactors in the country remain safe, even in a one-in-ten-thousand-years seismic hazard. The government should explain these nuclear safety standards to people in order to ease public concerns.

One other point of public concern is the disposal of nuclear waste. Echoing concerns expressed by local residents that inland nuclear power plants may use and recycle water from the Yangtze River to cool reactors, a senior official was quoted by the media as saying that interior plants will use cooling towers and that "no waste will be pumped into the Yangtze River." The dissemination of information is one of the most effective ways to eliminate the public's misunderstanding over nuclear power.

China may face great difficulties in promoting its inland nuclear power plants, but the country needs to increase its use of clean energy as smog remains a frequent issue during winter months.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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