China suspends planned reprocessing plant following protests

11 August 2016

The authorities the Chinese city of Lianyungang in Jiangsu province have suspended plans to build a CNY100bn ($15bn) nuclear fuel reprocessing plant after three days of street protests. Police in Lianyungang on 10 August announced a ban on unauthorised public gatherings and issued a statement calling on the public to disregard rumour mongering after the city government issued a statement, which said: "The government has decided to suspend preliminary work on site selection for the nuclear recycling project." The protesters said they were concerned about the health and safety impact of the proposed waste facility and the alleged lack of transparency in the decision-making process for the project.

Lianyungang is about 30km west of the Russian-built Tianwan NPP, which will be among the largest in China when all eight planned reactors are built. French nuclear fuel group Areva in 2012 agreed to co-operate with China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), which operates the Tianwan site, to develop a nuclear fuel recycling plant in China. The companies said construction would start in 2020 and be completed by 2030, but had not settled on a site. Last November Areva, whose reactor business is being merged with EDF, said CNNC might buy a minority stake covering the areas of uranium mining, recycling and decommissioning.

The announcement does not mean the nuclear fuel-reprocessing proposal is dead. Five other Chinese provinces are under consideration for the initiative, and it remains to be seen whether public opposition is sparked at these sites. However, while anti-nuclear protests in China have been few, Beijing has been circumspect in its responseto them, hoping to avoid provoking public opposition to wider nuclear plans. The only two nuclear projects that attracted significant public opposition in the past 10 years were both cancelled. In 2013, officials jettisoned plans for a nuclear fuel fabrication plant in the southern province of Guangdong after protests. Preliminary proposals to build nuclear power plants inland have also been met with strong opposition.



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