In the aftermath of the Fukushima incident, Chinese newspapers were full of stories of panic. One rumor led to store shelves being stripped of salt as frightened citizens attempted to stockpile iodine to prevent radiation sickness.
The story ended in dark comedy: When consumers found they had stocked enough useless salt to last for decades – at ten times the market price, in some cases – they attempted to return the salt to the point of purchase. “I promise I will never be so foolish again,” begged one woman. She was denied a refund nevertheless.
Now that the hysteria has ended, China is rethinking its attitude toward the danger and promise of nuclear power.
Ms Yuan, a resident of Qinshan village, 1 kilometer from the Qinshan nuclear plant in Zhejiang province
My opinion of nuclear power has absolutely changed since Fukushima. My drinking water comes from a well that is connected to the nuclear plant. We have no choice. Although we are afraid, life has to go on. In my opinion, there are should be no residences within five kilometers of nuclear plants. The government should build safer houses to move us to, or maybe they could give us some allowance or benefits.
Mr Lu, an employee at Daya Bay nuclear power station, Guangdong province
I work at a nuclear power plant, and actually I think these plants are time bombs we are leaving to our children. The government should reduce its construction targets for new plants. I was injured at work, and I didn’t get even a penny from the company – even though it is state-owned! The government has given an allowance to the company, but they used it for something else. There’s a problem with government monitoring. There are many other resources we can use: wind, sun, water or gas. There is no need to continue developing nuclear power. The fewer nuclear plants, the better.
Professor Lin Boqiang, the director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University
Nuclear businesses are the most profitable of all power businesses, including thermal and wind power. Nuclear has great prospects in China. Its development will certainly continue. But safety concerns will limit its scale, at least for now. The 12th Five-Year Plan is mainly about approved projects, and therefore the plan will not be adjusted. But in the future, planners will think more carefully about nuclear development.
Han Xiaoping, the CEO of Far East Wind Power
I think the five-year target cannot be hit. Skepticism is good, not bad, because it will help improve technology and quality. First, the height of the nuclear reactor walls have been increased from more than 10 meters to more than 20 meters [to prevent tsunami waves from pouring over the sides]. Secondly, the emergency generators have been improved. Finally, the nuclear reactors that are being planned are more advanced. The time is not yet right at present to set up inland nuclear stations. Most of China’s nuclear plants are still in coastal areas, because the population density is higher and security is better. But when the third-generation reactor technology is mature, it will be time to start working on inland nuclear development.
Mr Cai, Pengcheng village resident near Daya Bay nuclear power plant, Guangdong province
At first I paid a lot of attention to the Fukushima coverage, but now I’m used to it. Without money, there’s nothing we can do about it, so we are not afraid, only numb. I think the government should give us some sort of subsidy for health care and housing. That would ease our concerns. If there are no more nuclear plants built, that would be very good.