Hong Kong’s nuclear safety concern

Hong Kong will be surrounded by nuclear plants built in mainland China, and yet the city has been eerily silent on the issue of nuclear safety.

Hong Kong’s neighbor Shenzhen has two nuclear power plants, Daya Bay and Ling Ao, with the former less than 50km from the city centre of Hong Kong. Two more power plants are under construction in the Guangdong Province, in Taishan and Yangjiang. They will commerce operation in 2013 and 2012 respectively. Moreover, five more nuclear power plants are being planned for construction in the province. In total, there will be 9 nuclear power plants in the Guangdong Province where Hong Kong is, not to mention the four power plants planned in Fujian Province, Guangdong Province’s neighbor.

Japan’s radiation leak crisis has alerted quite a number of countries with nuclear energy in the world to review their nuclear safety measures. Not for China, whose deputy environmental minister came out just to place emphasis on the country’s determination to develop nuclear energy.

No doubt China’s ambition to develop nuclear energy is non stoppable, who has made it a national goal to generate 15% of its power by non-fossil energy by 2020. China currently has 13 nuclear reactors in operation, and another 25 are under construction. More are being planned.

This rapid development of nuclear energy poses one serious problem: management and the risks of bad management and non transparency. Would China have enough talents with the right management skills and MINDSET to keep up with its ambition? I would guess mismanagement would be a leading cause of nuclear accidents, if any, in China just as natural causes.

Three minor accidents, including radiation leak last October, happened in the Daya Bay nuclear power plant over the past year, which were only disclosed to the Hong Kong public much later after they happened. Members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council had blamed the CLP Group, a Hong Kong major power supplier and a major investor in the Daya Bay nuclear power plant, for keeping the public in the dark – but we all know if the Chinese side decided not to tell the truth, even the CLP Group can do nothing about it.

That explains why Hong Kong has been so eerily silent about the nuclear safety issue. What can it do? Ask China to shut down Daya Bay plant or more realistically review its safety measures and policies? The city’s people have no say in almost anything, from the election of its government, to nuclear safety concern.

Before the Daya Bay plant was built in 1987, one million Hong Kong residents signed a petition against its construction. Now its people no longer care to petition or demonstrate, as they see more nuclear power plants being built not too far afield.

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