Public opposition defuses nuclear plans
Updated: 2013-08-23 08:09
By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)
Specifically, the new rules have added a mechanism for assessing a project's potential risk to social stability to the evaluation procedure.
According to the rules, all local projects requiring NDRC or State Council approval are required to submit an assessment of the risks to social stability with their applications.
Before, local governments were only required to submit environmental and land assessments when applying for approval of large construction projects.
"Local governments are facing stricter requirements when it comes to seeking permission to launch large investment projects," said Feng Shengping, a researcher with the Guangdong Provincial Situation Research Center.
According to the rules, the NDRC will not approve any project if it is assessed as posing "medium or high-level risks to social stability".
"That's not just advice, it's a mandate," said Feng, who believes the local government should have informed the public earlier about the planned construction of the facility in Heshan.
"Within a short time, residents would have known more about the project, especially if the local government and the construction company had emphasized that it was safe to develop the facility," Feng said.
Prior to issuing the social stability risk assessment notice, the local government had earmarked around 144 million yuan to compensate the locals for the loss of some 229 hectares of farmland.
"We had to cancel the project because a majority of nearby residents demonstrated strong opposition. We respect the residents' opinions and will not apply for approval of the project," Wu Yuxiong, mayor of Heshan, told a media briefing in the aftermath of the decision to drop the plan.
Han Zhipeng, a political advisor in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province, partly attributed the cancellation to inadequate public information.
"Why did most people know so little about the project before the assessment of risk to social stability was announced? The public should be better informed," he said.
The lack of information about the project led many residents to mistakenly believe that a nuclear power station was to be built, rather than a fuel-processing plant, according to Han.
"At such a sensitive time, it was hard for most people to believe that the project would not pose a threat to the environment, even though the government reiterated the importance of safety of construction and operation," Han added.
Neither CGNPC nor CNNC has commented publicly about how projects such as this will be handled in future.