Local protests in China against future reprocessing plant

According to various press reports (FT, NYT), people in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province in China took to the streets to protest the plans to build a large reprocessing facility near the city. The city, located in a coastal area north of Shanghai, has been named at one of possible sites for the large spent fuel reprocessing facility built by the French company Areva. Although negotiations between Areva and its partner, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), have not been completed yet - the parties signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2015 - it appears that CNNC began work on selecting the site for the plant. The protests forced the local administration to announce the suspension of this work. A statement released by the city government on August 10 said that "The government has decided to suspend preliminary work on site selection for the nuclear recycling project."

There has been a significant change in the Chinese public's attitudes towards nuclear facilities after the Fukushima accident. Indeed, two surveys from the very area that has been rocked by protests over the proposed reprocessing plant--Lianyungang in Jiangsu Province--conducted in August 2008 and March-April 2011 found a dramatic decline in support for nuclear power. The polls offered various propositions to residents living near the Tianwan nuclear power plant in Lianyungang, the closest nuclear plant to Fukushima, and recorded their responses. The percentage of respondents who agreed with the proposition "Nuclear power should be used in our country" went down from 68 percent in 2008 to 32 percent in 2011 and the fraction that agreed with the proposition "We should quickly increase the number of nuclear power stations in China" declined from 40 percent to 17 percent. The percentage of people who agreed with "I strongly welcome construction of a nuclear power station in my dwelling city, such as Lianyungang" declined from 23 percent to 8 percent, whereas those who were neutral came down from 64 percent to 38 percent. In contrast, the fraction of opponents increased from 13 percent to 54 percent. The surveys also found that perceived benefits of nuclear power and public trust in government had decreased significantly, whereas knowledge about nuclear power increased significantly.

It is also worth noting that a project to build a reprocessing facility inland, in Gansu province, have not met serious objections of the local population.