Nuclear program will bring more power

Updated: 2012-12-24 07:39

By Jiang Xueqing reports from Shenzhen and Wu Wencong from Beijing (China Daily)

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Each newly started nuclear power unit has to pass a thorough examination by the National Nuclear Safety Administration, including a probabilistic risk assessment. The administration has six monitoring stations, based in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Dalian and Lanzhou, and has sent safety supervisors to every nuclear power plant. It has also significantly increased employee numbers after the Fukushima accident. For example, the employee quota for the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Center has increased from roughly 100 to 600, Chen said.

Although the government has repeatedly emphasized nuclear power safety and has endeavored to improve it during the 21 months since the Fukushima accident, potential problems that could endanger safety still lurk beneath the administrative structure, and even traditional Chinese culture, according to some experts.

"Under the current political structure, once a nuclear accident takes place, the National Nuclear Safety Administration cannot go beyond the Ministry of Environmental Protection to report directly to the State Council. That would waste a lot of time. But if someone did bypass the immediate leadership, he would enrage his leaders within the ministry and lose their support for his work in the future," said Yang Fuqiang, senior adviser on climate and energy for the Natural Resources Defense Council China program.

The Golden Mean

He said the Chinese culture of sticking to the Golden Mean, or the desirable middle-ground between two extremes, also caused some technicians and administrators at the grassroots level to remain silent when they detected safety problems, because they were afraid of offending the bosses or colleagues who made the decisions.

The Japanese authorities reflected deeply after the Fukushima accident and found that the traditional Japanese culture, which emphasizes obedience to higher authorities and discourages people from taking personal responsibility, had jeopardized its nuclear power safety.

"In my opinion, China should form a professional, independent nuclear safety committee reporting directly to the State Council," said Yang. "Then, it will have more authority to react swiftly in an emergency by asking top State leaders for approval to mobilize the military and other resources, rather than having to report to higher authorities at different levels and being neglected by the local government."

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