Nuke power security a key concern

By Sun Xiaohua (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-17 07:32

New efforts will be made to ensure nuclear and radioactive security now that nuclear power generation is growing and radioactive treatments are widely used in medical service.

Zhou Shengxian, Minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), told a high-level conference yesterday that the central government had allocated a budget of 40 million yuan (US$5.12 million) to monitor possible nuclear and radioactive pollution.

The significance of nuclear and radioactive security was underscored by Zhou's mention of China's emergency surveillance and evaluation following the nuclear test last October in neighbouring Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Nuclear and radioactive security is defined as regular inspection of nuclear use and operations, and effective response in emergencies.

SEPA last year set up six nuclear and radioactive security-related monitoring centers based in Beijing and Shanghai, Guangdong and Sichuan provinces, and the northeast and northwest regions.

But nuclear power generation is expected to grow in leaps and bounds in the next few years, Zhou noted.

Nuclear power accounts for 2 percent of China's energy consumption, with a generation capacity of nearly 8 million kilowatts in 2006.

But the targets are to reach 12 million kilowatts by 2010 and 40 million kilowatts by 2020.

SEPA will strengthen supervision of nuclear power plants both under construction and in operation, Zhou said.

In medical and other services, environmental officials admit that some radioactive materials are not properly disposed of, posing a potential threat to public health.

Zhou said that 2007 will be the last year of a transition in which the handling of radioactive materials used by hospitals will be done by the environmental, rather than medical, authorities.

In a related development, China Daily has learned that Li Ganjie, former director of the SEPA nuclear and radioactive security department, was promoted as the administration's youngest deputy minister at the end of 2006.

Poor performance

In overall terms, however, the environmental picture is bleak. Instead of meeting the target of reducing pollution emissions by 2 per cent per year, chemical oxygen demand a key index of water quality and sulphur dioxide emissions actually grew 1.9 per cent and 2.4 per cent in 2005.

Zhou blamed the failure on slow progress in industrial restructuring and local officials' wasteful investment projects.

(China Daily 01/17/2007 page1)

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