Experts call for greater public participation in approval of plans
A draft law on nuclear safety that was deliberated by China's top legislature will augment the domestic nuclear industry and raise awareness of nuclear safety among the ordinary people, experts said.
The draft, which was reviewed at the bimonthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee on October 31, proposes safety standards for nuclear facilities, emergency planning and response systems, and rules regarding information disclosure.
The draft law will safeguard domestic nuclear power plants and boost the Chinese nuclear industry, Gui Liming, a professor at the Department of Engineering Physics of Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.
"The draft law touches on the two most knotty issues that the Chinese public are concerned about, namely construction of nuclear power plants and government measures to deal with nuclear emergencies," Gui said.
"Future nuclear power plants are to be built in densely populated inland areas, and conflicts around these projects will increase due to their high usage of water and proximity to residential areas.
"All the currently active nuclear stations in China were built in sparsely populated coastal regions and are all located far away from fishing areas," said Gui.
Cai Shouqiu, the head of the Environment and Resources Law Society under the China Law Society, told the Global Times that the draft law will help ease public concerns over nuclear safety.
Cai pointed out that some Chinese people lack basic knowledge about nuclear plants. When people hear of nuclear accidents, they become very nervous about their own safety. For example, both the Fukushima accident in Japan and the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant leak in 2010 in Shenzhen evoked large-scale protests and concerns over food safety.
On August 10, Lianyungang, a coastal city in Jiangsu Province, suspended its search for a nuclear project site after demonstrators took to the streets of the city to protest what they saw as a risk to their health and safety.
Gui said that on the issue of nuclear safety, the draft law makes provision for the most important matter - the disposal of radioactive waste.
Radioactive gas and liquid waste pose a direct threat to the lives of ordinary people, noted Gui, because these low-level radioactive substances can be released by operators if approval is granted by the relevant environmental protection bureau.
Wang Jin, a law professor at Peking University, questioned the lack of a provision for public involvement in the nuclear projects in the draft law in an article published in People's Daily on Monday.
Xia Jun, an environmental lawyer with the All China Lawyers' Association, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the draft provides an overall direction to improve nuclear safety, and involvement of the public in nuclear issues will require a shift in the government's management mode.
Xia said officials should share information with the public and get their support before finalizing nuclear projects.