China's gambling on a nuclear future, but is it destined to lose?中国在赌核电的未来，但注定会输吗?
By James Griffiths, CNN
Updated 0026 GMT (0826 HKT) September 14, 2019
Hong Kong (CNN Business) Panicked shoppers thronged supermarket aisles, grabbing bags of salt by the armful. They queued six deep outside wholesalers. Most went home with only one or two bags; the lucky ones managed to snag a five-year supply before stocks ran out.
This was China in the days after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, when people in cities up and down the country's highly populated east coast bought huge quantities of iodized salt in the misguided belief it would protect them from radiation.
The 2011 disaster — the worst nuclear accident in 25 years — threw a major wrench into China's ambitious nuclear plans. It sent authorities scrambling to reassure people that they were not at risk of a similar catastrophe and sparked an immediate moratorium on new power plants.
That ban was lifted this year. Now, China is gradually ramping up construction again.
备注：红色代表中国正在运营的核电站 蓝色代表建设中的核电站 黄色代表规划中的核电站
With around a dozen nuclear power plants in the works, China will overtake France as the number two producer of atomic energy worldwide within two years. If it continues with its aggressive plan, it will surpass the United States to become number one by 2030.
China is the world's largest consumer of energy, thanks mainly to industrial activity. This is only going to increase, with households expected to use nearly twice as much energy by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.
At present, some 60% of that energy consumption is powered by coal. But China is spending heavily on natural gas and nuclear power, as well as renewables — the country accounted for almost half of all investments in the latter globally in 2017.
中国是世界上最大的能源消费国，这主要得益于工业活动。根据国际能源署(International energy Agency)的数据，这一数字只会增加，到2040年，家庭的能源使用量预计将是现在的近两倍。
Beijing's outward enthusiasm for nuclear energy masks a multitude of challenges facing China's atomic plans.
Surveys and protests against proposed nuclear plants suggest ordinary Chinese are a lot less enthusiastic about nuclear power than their leaders are. The potential ramifications of a nuclear disaster in the world's most populated country are stark, to say nothing of economic or environmental fallout.
And while China's nuclear industry has a strong safety record — and domestic regulations have tightened since Fukushima — some fear corruption and supply line issues could undercut these efforts.
Nuclear is also not the attractive clean energy solution it once was. In the years following the Fukushima disaster, renewable energy such as solar and wind have plummeted in price thanks in part to heavy Chinese investment, while new safety standards have driven up the cost of nuclear power.
"For a long time, China was basically subsidizing the (nuclear) industry, and now they're trying to put it on a market footing," said Miles Pomper, a Washington-based expert in nuclear energy at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
"When you do that, oftentimes it doesn't meet the market test, especially competing with wind and other kinds of power."China's National Energy Administration and Atomic Energy Authority did not respond to requests for comment for this report.
The Fukushima disaster was a shocking wake-up call to all countries with coastal nuclear plants. It raised concerns that other plants could be vulnerable to tsunamis and other extreme weather.
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Japan. It permanently moved the country's main island, destroyed buildings, and raised a tsunami up to 40 meters (131 feet) high, which crashed into the country's east coast.
Within 50 minutes of the initial earthquake, the first wave crested the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant's 10-meter (33 foot) sea wall. The plant's emergency power generators were soon flooded, knocking vital cooling systems offline and causing reactor fuel rods to begin to meltdown and leak deadly radiation into the surrounding area.
It was the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. More than 300,000 people were evacuated from the area around the Fukushima plant, and many will never be able to go home. Clean up operations, estimated to cost upwards of $50 billion, are still ongoing.
The disaster broke Japan's longstanding commitment to nuclear power and prompted a four-year moratorium on the country's atomic energy production.
The sudden aversion to nuclear energy reached China, where the State Council immediately suspended approval of nuclear power projects and ordered a comprehensive safety inspection of all existing facilities.
New regulations were passed, including the 2020 Vision for Nuclear Safety and Radioactive Pollution Prevention, which set safety standards and inspection goals, as well as a Nuclear Safety Act that went into effect last year.
中国突然对核能产生反感，国务院立即暂停审批核电项目，并下令对所有现有设施进行全面安全检查。新规获得通过，包括制定安全标准和检查目标的《2020核安全与辐射性污染防治法愿景》(2020 Vision for Nuclear Safety and Radioactive Pollution Prevention)和去年生效的《核安全法》(Nuclear Safety Act)。
In particular, according to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), new power supplies and water pumps were issued to all Chinese nuclear plants to protect against the flooding and power loss suffered at Fukushima.
New emergency response protocols were introduced, including the need for emergency response drills.The effect of the disaster on China's domestic nuclear industry has been profound. Some semi-official projections that China might have more than 400 nuclear plants by 2050 "have been cut in half," according to Mark Hibbs, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment and co-author of "Why Fukushima Was Preventable.
"The failure of Japan, "one of the world's most technologically equipped and experienced" countries as regards nuclear power, raised serious questions as to whether China too was vulnerable to a serious accident, Hibbs wrote in a report on the country's nuclear industry last year.
这场灾难对中国国内核工业的影响是深远的。卡内基国际和平基金会(Carnegie Endowment)分析师、《福岛事故为何可以避免》(Why Fukushima Was可控)一书的合著者马克•希布斯(Mark Hibbs)表示，一些半官方预测称，到2050年，中国可能拥有400多座核电站，但“这一预测已被削减了一半”。
Despite China's efforts to alleviate public concern after Fukushima with a moratorium and new safety checks, support for nuclear energy remains tepid at best and outright hostile at worst.
A government-supported survey in August 2017 found that "only 40% of the public supports the development of nuclear power in China," according to the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The Fukushima accident "has had the consequence that the public has become more sensitive to the possible development of nuclear energy projects, and is opposing such projects, especially near their homes."
Plans to build a nuclear waste processing plant in the eastern province of Jiangsu resulted in violent protests from locals and the project eventually being scrapped in August 2016, according to Chinese media.
The nuclear industry has long struggled to combat fears about safety, which many proponents of atomic energy say are overblown. They argue that famous incidents — Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island — are outliers which do not reflect the overall situation.
The World Nuclear Association (WNA) argues that "in over 17,000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial nuclear power operation in 33 countries," only three major accidents have occurred.
长期以来，核工业一直在努力消除人们对安全的担忧。许多原子能支持者认为，这种担忧有些言过其实。他们争辩说，著名的事故——福岛、切尔诺贝利和三里岛(Three Mile Island)——是不反映整体情况的极端值。
世界核协会(WNA)争辩说，“在33个国家17000多个累积反应堆- - -多年的商业核能运行中，”只发生了三起重大事故。
"The evidence over six decades shows that nuclear power is a safe means of generating electricity," according to the WNA. "The risk of accidents in nuclear power plants is low and declining.
"The WNA estimates that around 11% of the world's electricity is generated by about 450 nuclear power reactors. Some 60 more reactors are under construction around the world.
China, in particular, can boast that in three decades of operating nuclear plants, it has never experienced a major accident.
According to Xue Xiaogang, president of the China Institute of Atomic Energy, a government-backed research agency, safety levels in the country's nuclear power plants are now among the highest in the world."It is almost impossible that a Fukushima-style accident will happen in China," Xue told state-run broadcaster CGTN in May.
特别是中国，可以自豪地说，在其运营核电站的30年里，从未发生过重大事故。政府支持的研究机构中国原子能科学研究院(China Institute of Atomic Energy)院长薛晓刚（音）表示，中国核电站的安全水平目前位居世界前列。
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