China cancels $6 billion uranium plant after protest

13.07.2013 16:46

China has
abruptly cancelled plans to
build its largest uranium
processing plant in a
southern Chinese city, a day
after hundreds of protesters
took to the streets
demanding the project be
scrapped, a local
government website said on
The proposed 230-hectare complex in the
heart of China's Pearl River delta industrial
heartland in Guangdong province had also
sparked unease in neighbouring Hong Kong
and Macau.
Authorities in the gambling enclave had
formally raised the issue with their
Guangdong counterparts, the South China
Morning Post reported.
A one-line statement published on the
Heshan city government's website said that
"to respect people's desire, the Heshan
government will not propose the CNNC
State-run China National Nuclear Corporation
and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp
(CGNPC) had planned to build the 37 billion
yuan project.
Officials from both companies could not be
reached for comment.
A Beijing-based nuclear power expert said he
was surprised local authorities had taken the
decision as the project designed to produce
1,000 tonnes of uranium fuel annually by
2020 was hotly contested by local
"Compared to a nuclear power plant, a
uranium processing facility is way more safer,
as there is no fusion or reaction taking place
in the production process," said the official
with close knowledge of the project. He
declined to be identified as he was not
authorised to speak to the press.
The surprisingly swift decision to cancel the
project came after hundreds marched to city
offices on Friday that forced officials to
pledge an extension of public consultation by
10 days. Locals had planned more protests on
Chinese authorities are becoming increasingly
sensitive to local protests over environmental
issues, having cancelled, postponed or
relocated several major petrochemical and
metals plants.
The planned conversion and enrichment plant
had been meant to supply fuel for China's
expanding nuclear power capacity, likely to
reach 60-70 gigawatts by 2020 from the
current 12.6 GW.
China currently produces 800 tonnes of
uranium fuel at its plants in southwestern
Sichuan province and north China's Inner
Mongolia. China sources uranium both from
domestic mines and imports from Kazakhstan,
Canada and Australia, said the expert.
Guangdong is one of the country's largest
nuclear power bases, already running five
nuclear reactors and building another dozen,
incorporating technologies from companies
like French Areva (AREVA.PA) and
Westinghouse, a unit of Japan's Toshiba
Corpl. (Additional reporting by Clement Tan
in Hong Kong; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)