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Tale of 2 towns at odds over nuclear power plant

(Shanghai Daily)

09:30, February 17, 2012

RESIDENTS of two towns in eastern China are at odds over plans for a nuclear power plant, a dispute that reflects mixed attitudes toward the industry as work looks set to resume on projects suspended after Japan's Fukushima disaster.

The planned nuclear plant in Pengze, a town on the banks of the Yangtze River in Jiangxi Province, is raising complaints from residents of Wangjiang, across the river in neighboring Anhui Province.

They say residents will be living dangerously near the plant and are petitioning to delay construction pending further safety studies.

The plant in Pengze, approved in 2008, reportedly was the first such project planned for an inland region, as China's nuclear plants are on the coast.

Residents in Pengze are busy building guest houses to accommodate the thousands of workers expected to be employed if the project goes ahead, according to a report in the Oriental Morning Post.

But across the river, a group of retired officials living in Wangjiang, led by a former judge named Fang Guangwen, have been getting national attention with their petition drive to have the project delayed or canceled. Fang, former head of Wangjiang County People's Court, strongly opposed any proposal to build an inland nuclear power plant.

"We prepared to file our petition at the annual plenary sessions of National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference next month, he said. "We strongly oppose any similar project if the plant is to be built in Anhui."

Fang sent an email last July to physicist He Zuoxiu, a member of Chinese Academy of Sciences, seeking professional advice and help. He replied an hour later with his support and agreed to hand in their petition to state leaders.

Fang quoted He as saying that China's inland is the last place to build nuclear plants.

An official in the Wangjiang County information office, who gave only his surname, He, said only that the situation had been reported to provincial authorities.

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