Jiangsu residents protest nuclear project

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/8 0:43:40 Last Updated: 2016/8/8 6:48:55

Local govt mulls response to natl-level plan to recycle radioactive waste

The local government of Lianyungang, East China's Jiangsu Province held an emergency meeting Sunday after thousands of residents staged a protest against a nuclear fuel recycling project being launched in the city, the latest in a series of development projects in China to come into conflict with rising environmental concern.

Thousands of residents in Lianyungang gathered in a local square on Saturday, chanting "no nuclear fuel recycling project in Lianyungang," according to video footage sent to the Global Times by one of the protestors, who asked for anonymity.

A large number of police officers later appeared at the protest site, but no clashes occurred, said the protestor.

The Public Security Bureau in Lianyungang said on its official Sina Weibo account on Friday that any assembly, parade or protest that takes place without permission from the local government is illegal. The bureau also called for residents not to believe in rumors spread on social media and not to participate in any protests.

"It is very important to choose a safe location to deal with nuclear waste since it is radioactive. Lianyungang is located in a seismically active area, and there is already a nuclear waste plant here. It is unsafe to see another nuclear project coming and besieging us," a resident surnamed Zhang told the Global Times.

An employee of the Lianyungang government told the Global Times that it has not yet been decided whether the project will be launched in Lianyungang, and local government has no say in the matter, since it is a national-level project.

 The government is discussing the issue on Sunday and will release its decision afterward, the employee said without giving further information.

Safety concerns should not hinder the development of the nuclear industry now that China has acquired mature technologies to safely deal with radioactive gasses and liquids produced during the recycling process, Gui Liming, an expert on China's nuclear safety system at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.

Current technology can solidify waste materials so they won't cause great damage to the environment by being released into the air or being poured into the ocean, said Gui, adding that the common practice is to bury the solid waste.

Gui dismissed concerns about the risk of explosion, saying that happens only when the temperature is too high and "some of the waste contains radioactive elements that still emit heat after the recycling process." He explained that plants in China use bituminization to solidify waste, making it much less likely to emit radioactive elements.

According to Guangming Daily, the fuel recycling project  is jointly backed by China and France and will be implemented by China National Nuclear Corporation. The project aims to deal with 800 tons of nuclear fuel waste produced annually by China's nuclear power stations, and construction of the facility is expected to begin in 2020.

The Saturday demonstration follows a June protest against a waste incineration plant by some 10,000 residents of Xiantao, Central China's Hubei Province.

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