The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) announced on its website yesterday that the Rushan nuclear power plant project in Shandong hadn't submitted an application for an environmental examination.
As one of the three nuclear power plants slotted to be built along the coastline of Shandong Peninsula, the Rushan nuclear power project was reported to have a total investment of more than 60 billion yuan (about US$8.11 billion).
The site of the nuclear power plant has aroused disputes ever since the project was initiated in May 2007. The local inhabitants reported to SEPA that the direct distance between the new plant and the nearest residence compound was merely a few kilometers.
Moreover, the 120-kilometer coastline is too short to have three such nuclear power plants.
SEPA made an instant response, stating that they hadn't yet received any application from the construction company. Yesterday's announcement reiterated the lack of an application process but it didn't mention whether the project had violated legal regulations. SEPA did confirm that it would conduct strict environmental examinations of the construction site after receiving an application.
However, Wang Yongxiao, the director of the project's construction and planning department, argued that the site is approximately 7.2 kilometers away from any residence compound. "Five kilometers from the nuclear reactor is the rule for a development-limited area, where large scale factories and schools are forbidden to be built," said Wang.
According to the rules, the company should launch an investigation and seek public opinions before mapping out a construction plan.
The company did release an opinion-seeking announcement on the website of the Rushan city government at the end of November 2007. The period to comment ends on December 9. According to Wang, the company will follow the proper application process and prepare necessary materials, including surveys on local hydrology, meteorology and geology. "If the application is denied by the authorities, say, if the construction site doesn't meet safety standards, we will cease the project immediately," Wang said, adding that it's too early to judge whether the project is inappropriate or not.
Some local residents have questioned the urgent deadline for the opinion-seeking period. They maintained that the company wanted to obtain environmental approval before any upcoming new regulations went into effect.
Reportedly, SEPA has released a regulation concerning radiation protection for nuclear power plants to the public for comments. The new regulation has stricter requirements on nuclear power plant sites.
(China.org.cn by Huang Shan, December 7, 2007)