Claim: New Chinese nuclear plants are unsafe

Susquehanna steam electric nuclear power station
Susquehanna steam electric nuclear power station

Chinese scientist He Zuoxiu has issued a public warning, about the safety of nuclear plants being constructed as part of China’s economic development programme.

According to The Guardian;

China’s plans for a rapid expansion of nuclear power plants are “insane” because the country is not investing enough in safety controls, a leading Chinese scientist has warned.

Proposals to build plants inland, as China ends a moratorium on new generators imposed after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, are particularly risky, the physicist He Zuoxiu said, because if there was an accident it could contaminate rivers that hundreds of millions of people rely on for water and taint groundwater supplies to vast swathes of important farmlands.

He spoke of risks including “corruption, poor management abilities and decision-making capabilities”. He said: “They want to build 58 (gigawatts of nuclear generating capacity) by 2020 and eventually 120 to 200. This is insane.”

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A qualified Physicist, Zuoxiu rose to fame by publicly campaigning against superstition, by campaigning against Chinese traditional medicine, and by calling for Falun Gong to be outlawed.

To me, Zuoxiu’s position on Falun Gong seems extreme. In matters of spirituality, I think people should be free to follow their conscience. I’m unsettled that someone who prizes evidence based reasoning, could still consider themselves to be a Communist.

But Zuoxiu is a physicist, and China’s rapid capitalist transformation has not been without its problems. In 1975, China suffered the worst hydroelectric disaster in history – the Banqiao Dam disaster killed an estimated 171,000 people, and destroyed over 11 million homes. According to Wikipedia, the disaster was caused by a combination of poor engineering, shoddy workmanship and poor preparation – a lack of proper local hydrological research.

I’m a fan of nuclear power, and applaud China’s efforts to develop next generation nuclear power systems, such as Thorium reactors. But given the rising pressure on China to reduce CO2 emissions, which might concievably be helping to promote an overhasty nuclear programme, given the potentially awful consequences of an upriver nuclear meltdown, and given China’s track record of sometimes cutting one corner too many, Zuoxiu’s warnings should in my opinion be taken seriously.

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DC Cowboy
May 26, 2015 5:49 am

I would submit another reason for this apparent ‘insane’ buildup. It is part of the effort to keep the ‘insane’ Chinese construction ‘bubble’ going. ‘Bubble’ type construction often is associated with shoddy technique, below standard materials, lack of real economic justification, and corruption. Over the last few years the new Chinese ‘Robber Barons’ have built several cities capable of housing millions that currently house around 20,000 people. They have to continue to build in order to keep the vast number of workers in the construction industry ’employed’ and to keep the development money flowing. Eventually economic reality will catch up to them and they will pay a horrific price, but, as long as they have a huge net capital inflow from the rest of the world, that day can be postponed.

Sam Pyeatte
Reply to  DC Cowboy
May 26, 2015 6:34 pm

The same people who build apartment buildings are building nuclear power plants….what could possibly go wrong?

Reply to  DC Cowboy
May 27, 2015 5:29 am

Clearly, you do not know what you are talking about. As with any society including the USA there is some corruption and poor decision making (just look at Obama & Kerry and in fact much of the federal administration including the EPA) but China has some top technology & engineers and is importing the best technology from other counties which they then will develop further just as did the Japanese & south Koreans. I have just been to China. I saw some amazing buildings in Beijing and Shanghai. I travelled on the Mag-lev train which reached 431 km/hr in a 7 minute trip to the airport in Shanghai (1 1/2 hrs by road)
One thing I noticed was that the government seemed to have pulled the plug on construction. In all the 8 cities (including the largest Chongging of 33 million) I passed through there were cranes every where on the skyline but practically none were working. Work on new subways in two cities had also come to a halt. I saw only two concrete trucks during 3 weeks. The completed Infrastructure (roads, rail, airports, the 3 gorges dam -32 units of total about 24,000 MW, the locks etc ) was very impressive. I saw in the distance from a bus two very modern cement plants -large pre-calciner units with no visible emission. I saw what may have been a large operating nuclear power station with two very large cooling towers of a size for 700-1000MW each. (the guides did not want to talk about it) because there did not appear to have any coal supply conveyors.
I do not believe this so-called Chinese Scientist and anything printed by the Guardian is likely to be exaggerated or out right lies. But, but politics can be strange maybe the Chinese Government are positioning themselves to pull out of the climate talks in Paris with the excuse that they they need to burn more coal. The Chinese planned to have a Thorium fuel nuclear power plant by 2020 and I believe that is still on track.

Reply to  DC Cowboy
June 3, 2015 3:56 pm

Everyone knows China makes the worst quality products in the world however they also have the capacity to build high quality products let us hope they don’t cut corners.

May 26, 2015 5:55 am

This guy is making totally irrelevant arguments about bad dams equals bad reactors. Most of China’s reactors currently under construction are foreign built units – Westinghouse AP1000’s Gen 3+, which have abundant passive safety systems, and are practically walk away safe. Westinghouse engineers recently observed and verified thru testing the high quality of the first Chinese produced reactor vessels. Chinese nuclear engineers are fully capable – wittness their creation of a slightly improved Chinese version of the Westinghouse AP 1000. This critic has produced zero details or evidence of any safety issues, and is not a qualified nuclear engineer. So far, this does not go beyond empty fear-mongering.

Reply to  arthur4563
May 26, 2015 7:04 am

Thank you. Comments such as yours are the reason that I read the WUWT comments.

Reply to  arthur4563
May 26, 2015 8:08 am

One thing that dams and nuclear facilities have in common is concrete, and lots of it, poured and re-barred locally of course.

Leo Smth
Reply to  PiperPaul
May 26, 2015 8:30 am

Er no. The biggest dams that collapsed ever, were made of heaped up earth (clay)

Reply to  PiperPaul
May 26, 2015 9:08 am

Therefore, my statement is wrong, eh Leo?

Reply to  PiperPaul
May 27, 2015 4:34 am

The best concrete used in dam making comprises “fly ash” from coal fired power stations.

Non Nomen
Reply to  arthur4563
May 26, 2015 11:37 am

Most of China’s reactors currently under construction are foreign built units – Westinghouse AP1000’s Gen 3+, which have abundant passive safety systems, and are practically walk away safe.

That doesn’t help at all if material or workmanship or both are of poor quality. Correct welding of pipes for nuclear plants is paramount for safety. I doubt that these standards can be met when so many plants are under construction. BTW: Safety first!

D.J. Hawkins
Reply to  Non Nomen
May 26, 2015 2:36 pm

Your “doubts” assume facts not in evidence. Meeting the safety standards is not about numbers, for I’ve no doubt that sufficient personnel can be trained to conduct the necessary inspections. It’s only about the will to do so. And while top brass may be unconcerned with the well-being of the masses, a nuclear “oops!” is as likely to find their chestnuts in the fire as well. There is ample incentive on a personal level for upper management to see it gets done right.

Gary Hladik
Reply to  Non Nomen
May 26, 2015 9:16 pm

“There is ample incentive on a personal level for upper management to see it gets done right.”
Assuming facts not in evidence. 🙂

D.J. Hawkins
Reply to  Non Nomen
May 27, 2015 4:00 pm

Yes, of course, because it’s equally sensible to assume that Chinese plutocrats are suicidal. /sarc

Gary Hladik
Reply to  Non Nomen
May 28, 2015 1:17 pm

So you admit to no factual basis for your original claim. Too bad, because I thought you might actually have some evidence that you merely failed to cite.
There is of course incentive for all concerned, i.e. engineers, bureaucrats, contractors, inspectors, etc, to get it “right”, but there is also incentive to cut corners, take bribes, fake inspections, and so on. And if something bad happens afterward, there is plenty of incentive to point fingers, lie, pull strings, and so on to avoid or at least spread the blame.

Reply to  arthur4563
June 4, 2015 10:29 pm

That would be this China: right? I mean how could they possibly fail building a reactor?

May 26, 2015 5:59 am

if it’s in the Guardian it must be untrue. A more biased against anything ‘newspaper’ is hard to find outside Russia

Reply to  Petrossa
May 26, 2015 6:32 am

“Le Monde” is pretty good…

Reply to  Petrossa
May 26, 2015 8:30 am

Try the New York Times or the LA Times….

Reply to  Petrossa
May 27, 2015 4:14 am

Agereed. I am constantly castigating my AGW supporting friend about using the Guardian as a source of scientific information. in fact NO magazine, newspaper or TV source can be trusted. Even here at WUWT, it is the vigorous “peer revie” of the commenters that makes this such an important source of information.

Gary Pearse
May 26, 2015 6:04 am

Let’s hope there are no failures. The clones are waiting for such a disaster to kill nuclear.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 26, 2015 6:34 am

They will call any mishap a “disaster”.

Mike F
May 26, 2015 6:05 am

I would agree with arthur4563. The bulk of the Chinese nuke plant fleet was directly built by Western firms using more advanced designs (both in terms of passive safety and efficiency) than most of the US plants in operation (which themselves have a very positive safety record). Between the CANDU plants built by the Canadians and the AP-1000s by Westinghouse, plus the plants they have designed themselves based on these plants, the engineering controls should be in place for a safe fleet.

May 26, 2015 6:07 am

To me, Zuoxiu’s position on Falun Gong seems extreme. In matters of spirituality, I think people should be free to follow their conscience.

Falun Gong was OK until tens of thousands of its members surrounded the Chinese government headquarters. So stupid …
There is a long history of organizations in China who mix violent political action with their spirituality. One example that many people haven’t heard of was the Taiping rebellion. It was led by Hong Xiuquan who believed that he was the younger brother of Jesus. 20 million people died. Another example would be the White Lotus sect who caused trouble over hundreds of years.
Given the history, Zuoxiu’s position isn’t even close to extreme. 😉

Reply to  commieBob
May 26, 2015 6:23 am

The Chinese walls were not built to protect China from potential invading outsiders. They were made to protect the Chinese from themselves.

Steve P
Reply to  Patrick
May 26, 2015 11:32 am

Patrick May 26, 2015 at 6:23 am
More nonsense.
Do you even go to the trouble of at least checking with Wikipedia or doing an online search before making asinine assertions that even a well-educated grade school kid could debunk?
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications …generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe.

Reply to  Patrick
May 27, 2015 2:07 am

Wikipedia? Seriously? And you talk of nonesense?

Reply to  Patrick
May 27, 2015 2:37 am

BTW Steve P, the “great wall” is not the only wall. I did say walls. There are many, through out many dynasties, mostly made from mud and straw not stone and mostly erroded now.

Reply to  Patrick
May 27, 2015 3:07 am

Patrick and Steve P
There were three dynasties which built Great Walls in China (i.e. the Han, Qing and Ming dynasties) and many other walls were built between those periods. The most commonly known piece of Great Wall is the Ming wall near Beijing, but there are thousands of miles of Wall many of which are still not mapped in China.
The earliest Wall was built about 600BC to inhibit raiding by nomadic tribes from the north, but anyone who has visited any of the Walls has seen they are much more than is required for military defence. Indeed, the three wall-building dynasties each collapsed from the costs of maintaining the Walls. A defensive measure is a total failure when it destroys that which it is intended to protect, but three dynasties built Walls.
This is because the Walls had three purposes.
The tertiary purpose of the Walls was military defence and deterence.
The Walls acted as a barrier to invaders and a transport route for defending troupes to get to an invasion point. Importantly, the Walls presented potential invaders with the thought that a people who could build, man and maintain such an awesome structure would be a serious problem to invaders who breached a Wall.
The secondary purpose of the Walls was control of trade.
Passage through the Walls was through gates which were the size of small towns. Trade conducted through the gates could be controlled, tolled and taxed.
The primary purpose of the Walls was political control and propaganda.
Elsewhere in the world people who fell out with their government could escape (or attempt to escape) to another country. The Walls prevented such escape in China.
Importantly, the Walls are large, and built on hilltops so they are very visible for miles around. Anyone who looked up would see a Wall and be reminded that the Emperor is so powerful that he can build such a Wall, he can man it and maintain it, and he can impose taxes to pay for all that. (This is similar to why governments today build windfarms: the Windfarms are large, and built on hilltops so they are very visible for miles around: anyone who looks up sees a windfarm and is reminded that the government is so Green that it can build such a windfarm, can man it and maintain it, and can impose taxes to pay for all that.)
A result of the Walls is that China has been totalitarian for 2,600 years and through several different types of government. A culture established over millennia is not simply replaced. People are very mistaken if they think China would stop being totalitarian if it stopped being communist.

Reply to  Patrick
May 27, 2015 3:24 am

About 10,000 miles of them according to some research, so far. Much of the “Great Wall” that we know of is gone. Almost all of the others, made from straw and mud, are gone. As I said, they were mostly installed to protect the Chinese from themselves. I didn’t quite say it the way you did RSC.

Steve P
Reply to  Patrick
May 27, 2015 8:59 am

richardscourtney May 27, 2015 at 3:07 am
Yes, thank you Richard.
The Qing, Han, and Ming walls are covered in the Wikipedia article, but I acknowledge my error in that Patrick did say “great walls,” and not The Great Wall.
Nevertheless, a quick glance at the maps of the Qing, Han, and Ming walls in the Wikipedia article shows that they are built roughly on or near modern-day China’s northern border.
It is true there are many walls and similar defensive structures scattered throughout China, and these were constructed by various towns, states, warlords, dynasties, and what have you from at least the 8th century BCE, according to Wiki.
I don’t claim any extensive knowledge of Chinese history, but I have studied it enough to know that warfare has been a fairly common theme, and China has been unified and broken up again a number of times, a process commonly called the dynastic cycle.
And I agree with your conclusion.

Steve P
Reply to  Patrick
May 27, 2015 10:36 am

Qing Qin (221 to 206 BCE). was the first imperial China dynasty, while the Qing was the last (1644 to 1912, 17)
The former constructed great walls, while the latter, apparently, did not.

Reply to  Patrick
May 27, 2015 11:29 pm

I tried to help resolve your disagreement with Steve P by inserting some fact and different opinion together with a conclusion pertinent to the subject of this thread.
Please be assured that I was not trying to misrepresent you (or Steve P) and my post addressed to the two of you made no mention of what either of you had said.

Ian Macdonald
Reply to  commieBob
May 26, 2015 12:52 pm

The pogrom against Falun Gong (and incidentally,other qigong groups including Zhong Gong) was instigated as a political gambit by Jiang Zemin. His intention was to claim that these organisations represented a threat to CCP rule by way of making comparisons to the Boxer Rebellion (which was an unlikely comparison since qigong is not a martial art) then quickly and efficiently crush them, thereby gaining kudos with the politburo as an effective leader.
What actually happened was that most of the attacked organisations did capitulate quickly, but Falun Gong proved to be surprisingly resistant, and survived all of his attempts to eradicate the practice, which involved the founding of a nationwide secret police force, the ‘610 Office’ the expenditure of which some say eventually consumed a measurable fraction of China’s GDP.

Reply to  Ian Macdonald
May 26, 2015 5:08 pm

Don’t imagine that the Falun Gong is a bunch of pacifist sixty year olds practicing qigong in the park. A comparison that most Americans would understand would be with the Branch Davidians (Koreshians).
What you say isn’t wrong Ian. It just doesn’t come close to describing the whole situation.

Eric Gisin
Reply to  commieBob
May 26, 2015 7:04 pm

Falun Gong definitely is a cult whose leader has serious mental illness. Details at and RationalWiki.

May 26, 2015 6:07 am

You cannot blame the Banqiao Dam disaster on China’s adoption of a market-oriented economy. China’s capitalist transformation did not start until 1979. Mao was still in power in 1975 and had unleashed the red guards on capitalist pigs.

Reply to  Mohatdebos
May 26, 2015 6:36 am

Beyond that, this was a govt built and funded project from the get go. Just because China decided to allow a few shop keepers to keep their profits is not evidence that capitalism has anything to do with govt programs.
(The same thing applies here in the US as well.)

Reply to  Mohatdebos
May 26, 2015 6:55 am

Mao also chopped down every tree in the country – to make steel!! (it’s a trifle hard to use wood to make steel – but why worry about the detail?).

Ian Macdonald
Reply to  toorightmate
May 26, 2015 1:00 pm

Mao was crazy. Nearly as crazy as us thinking we can stoke-up Drax that way.

May 26, 2015 6:11 am

So the fear mongering begins. Why don’t we simply revert to picking up dung, drying it out and burning that?

Reply to  Patrick
May 26, 2015 6:45 am

Sorry Patrick, good idea but it won’t work since there aren’t enough cattle now that so many of us have become vegetarian. 8=}

Reply to  Lorne WHITE
May 26, 2015 7:26 am

I guess you’ve not seen an Australian callte farm! In this case, there is more dung in the outback than in Canberra (Austrlian versionn of Washington DC). Unlike the US, there is more dung in Washingtonn DC.

May 26, 2015 6:32 am

According to the US, Global Warming is the greatest threat we face. Thus coal fired power plants are much more dangerous than nuclear weapons, terrorists, or nuclear power plants. So what if a nuclear plant of two melt-down? It is nothing compared to the melt-down of the planet caused by coal fired power plants.

Reply to  ferdberple
May 26, 2015 2:02 pm

“According to the US, Global Warming is the greatest threat we face. Thus coal fired power plants are much more dangerous than nuclear weapons, terrorists, or nuclear power plants.” ferdberple

So does that mean any NIMBYs blocking CO2 sparing Nuclear power plants or Smart-Grid distribution systems, get the all-expense paid vacation at Gitmo?

Jim A
May 26, 2015 6:33 am

Hey Eric! I think Mohatdebos {6:07} makes a damned good point. Those of us, paying attention, who were astounded by the ‘market transformation’ know full well that the dam disaster was result of the old insider regime. The ink was barely dry on the Nixon agreements for crying out loud.

May 26, 2015 6:36 am

Build even more coal power stations instead, low-cost power and extra CO2 will increase the rice crop yields.

Reply to  vukcevic
May 26, 2015 3:13 pm

I think China is doing both. Plenty of coal fired power stations and I was told only last night the nuclear power station program is for 70 new plants !! The Chinese never do things on a small scale.

A C Osborn
May 26, 2015 6:37 am

So which country was the last one to send something to the Moon?
Was USA – No (last space launch failed)
Was it Russia – No (last 2 space launches failed)
Yes it was China
So it is obvious that China has both good Scientists and good Engineers.

Reply to  A C Osborn
May 26, 2015 6:43 am

Ever hear of apples to oranges comparisons?
1) Neither the US nor Russia have tried to send much to the moon in recent years. The US sent a surveyor probe into lunar orbit a few years back.
2) China has also had more than a few launch failures.
3) Just because China has had success in it’s space efforts is not evidence that all of China’s engineering efforts are golden.

Reply to  A C Osborn
May 26, 2015 6:46 am

Let me try an analogy of my own.
Say I’m watching two baseball games on split screen. On one screen pitcher A has just thrown a strike, on the other screen pitcher B has just thrown two balls in a row.
From this data, is it safe to assume that pitcher A is the better pitcher?

Reply to  A C Osborn
May 26, 2015 8:30 am

Yes. In so many things China is last.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  A C Osborn
May 26, 2015 9:39 am

Nice cherry pick. When was the last time China sent anything beyond the Moon?

Non Nomen
Reply to  A C Osborn
May 26, 2015 11:42 am

So which country was the last one to send something to the Moon?
Was USA – No (last space launch failed)
Was it Russia – No (last 2 space launches failed)
Yes it was China
So it is obvious that China has both good Scientists and good Engineers.

So they may build their nuclear power plants on the moon.

Ian Macdonald
Reply to  A C Osborn
May 26, 2015 1:17 pm

Sending an unmanned probe to the moon is not particularly difficult, anyway. Only slightly harder than putting a satellite into geostationary orbit. Admittedly a soft landing is harder to achieve than just getting there… but even that is only rocket science.

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
Reply to  A C Osborn
May 26, 2015 1:27 pm

Is there ANYTHING, anything at all, that China builds well? In my experience, here in England, everything I have bought that was made in China was/is total crap. At the moment, wife and I are engaged in a fruitless campaign to buy a can opener that isn’t made in China. Last one we had lasted less than a year! We saw one today costing £10 ($15) that is made in China. But what’s the point? It will last as long as one half the price. Seriously, if anyone knows of one then please say!

Reply to  The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
May 26, 2015 6:31 pm

They assemble Hondas , toyotas, BMWs, VWs. Tvs, iphones. etc etc

Reply to  The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
May 27, 2015 4:25 am

I agree with you. It’s like stuff made in Hong Kong, recall that? Christmas cracker material. Almost all MFG has been exported to China/India. Although my “Fender” bass guitar was made in Indonesia. VW Mk6 Golfs are made in South Africa. But in terms of making cars, ALL mfg’s use Japanese systems…like “kan ban” squares. In my experience in car making industry, Honda in Swindon (UK), especially engines, there is little contact between engine and human. It’s 98% automated. So it matters not where stuff is made IMO, the quality would be the same these days.

Reply to  The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
May 27, 2015 6:12 am

Chinese built things are crap. The difference with “Assembly” from “Manufactured” is many. iPhones have very strict Quality controls. While everything else made by the Chinese for export are indeed garbage.

Reply to  The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
May 27, 2015 7:55 am

A car body pressing plant using CNC pressing plant systems, are as good as simililar systems in other countries. Trust me! Honda, in 1995, used to receive body pressings from Rover (Rover 214/216…a rebadged honda Accord) because Honda had no pressing capasity. Honda rejected Rover pressings by about 80%. Until they built their own pressing mill…

May 26, 2015 6:39 am

Communist country cuts corners to save money. Then when the inevitable disaster occurs, it’s the technology itself that is blamed. Where have I heard this story before.

Reply to  MarkW
May 26, 2015 9:10 am

It’s called population control construction.

G. Karst
May 26, 2015 6:47 am

I have always considered nuclear power stations, with-in totalitarian societies, as very risky. Not because of the build design, but due to the ability of political masters to override the engineering and operating staff. This was confirmed (to me) with the Chernobyl discombobulation.
We wouldn’t allow an airline executive to ride in an airliner cockpit and dictate to the pilot – how he must fly his plane. That is the pilot’s command.
Highly trained and experienced operator’s must be free to make the correct decisions with-out coercion and political directives. GK

G. Karst
Reply to  G. Karst
May 26, 2015 7:23 am

Mods: just out of curiosity – was it the word “cockpit” that put me into moderation or have I committed some other unknown faux pas. GK
[probably, though we don’t get notice of what the flags are -mod]

Reply to  G. Karst
May 26, 2015 8:33 am

Control room is apt, if not often used.

Reply to  G. Karst
May 26, 2015 9:13 am

It was “cockpit” followed by “dictation”.

Reply to  G. Karst
May 26, 2015 9:13 am

Now I’m in Moderation.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  G. Karst
May 26, 2015 10:49 am

We use the term ‘flight deck’ now that we have lady pilots.

Just an engineer
Reply to  G. Karst
May 26, 2015 11:24 am

We use the term ‘flight deck’ now that we have lady pilots.
Thought that was the large flat area on an aircraft carrier!

Reply to  G. Karst
May 26, 2015 4:41 pm

Box office for lady pilots.

nutso fasst
Reply to  G. Karst
May 27, 2015 10:14 am
Reply to  G. Karst
May 26, 2015 12:39 pm

Same problem is looming in shipping.
Instead of Ship Masters having absolute command, with corresponding responsibility, there is a move to allow shore based ‘Traffic Control’ offices to call the shots, at least in ‘Port Approaches’ – but with little or less experience, qualification or responsibility.
My master have the responsibility, experience, qualification – and my backing.
“Highly trained and experienced operators must be free to make the correct decisions with-out coercion and political directives.” GK and Auto

May 26, 2015 6:52 am

Let’s look in the “Little Red Book” – you know – The Quotations of Chairman Mao.
Hmm…Hmmm… he say’s nothing at all about nuclear reactor safety, so it must not be that important.
The translations of the reactor plans we got from our people in the US don’t mention it, either. But then we didn’t ask them to get copies of the plans for the safety systems.
Besides, it would just increase the cost to install those things, and delay the start-up date – and we don’t dare miss a deadline or we will end up on foot patrol in the Gobi desert!

Bruce Cobb
May 26, 2015 6:52 am

China doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about CO2. They do want to clean up their air, and a lot of their coal is of the softer variety meaning it needs expensive scrubbers which may not be cost-effective on some of the older plants.

Don K
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
May 26, 2015 9:22 am

> China doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about CO2. They do want to clean up their air
My opinion also. I think China’s primary objective with regard to “Climate Change” is to put off the day when it becomes obvious they and India will be by far the world’s largest producers of CO2 for as long as possible. Secondarily, they presumably want to cur their notorious air pollution a bit. 1,300,000,000 people in each county living a reasonable lifestyle are going to burn a lot of fossils fuels — a concept that seems simply not to fit the world view of Western liberals.

Reply to  Don K
May 26, 2015 12:42 pm

My I?
1,300,000,000 people in each county living a reasonable lifestyle are going to burn a lot of fossil fuels — a concept that seems simply not to fit the world view of Western haemorrhaging valentine liberals.
A bit less obscurantist?

Clay Marley
May 26, 2015 6:57 am

I have little doubt the Guardian is doing a bit of fear mongering in support of their environmental friends. Nevertheless, I would not be surprised to see some nuclear disaster in China’s future. It isn’t going to be the quality of the hardware that causes it. It is going to be the operation of the hardware.
Some years ago I helped set up a software development outfit in Beijing. We implemented all of the modern ISO-9001, TL-9000, CMM processes and metrics, and I taught them how to use metrics to evaluate processes, and what these metrics should look like.
A year later I came and did an audit. I was amazed at how good their metrics looked. Too good considering the quality of their work. To make a long story short, turns out they were manipulating the data to look like what I told them it should look like. But most surprising was the people involved were perfectly willing to tell me they had manipulated the data, were proud they had succeeded, and in fact expected me to be happy they did.
What was considered morally “right” for them was to do what their superiors told them to do. Here in the West our morality is guided by 2000 years of Christian heritage, though that is being pushed aside. China has no such heritage, thus their sense of morality can often be very different. Building vast empty cities is similar, it makes the GDP look good and that is what they are told to do. Morally right is, don’t ask questions and do what your superiors say.
Which somehow brings us back to the Guardian.
Oh, and that Beijing software group was closed down a few years later.

Reply to  Clay Marley
May 26, 2015 7:13 am

Clay Marley,
Let’s hope that Westinghouse engineers are in charge of Chinese nuclear plant construction. Otherwise, they will end up with something that looks like a nuclear power plant but can’t operate safely.

Reply to  Clay Marley
May 26, 2015 7:22 am

Mao and the “Great leap forward”.

Reply to  Clay Marley
May 26, 2015 8:26 am

“…turns out they were manipulating the data to look like what I told them it should look like. But most surprising was the people involved were perfectly willing to tell me they had manipulated the data, were proud they had succeeded, and in fact expected me to be happy they did.”

Seems like our Klimate Katastrophe Klown Krowd missed a step.

Reply to  Clay Marley
May 26, 2015 9:13 am

They don’t exactly have what we would call “morality.” They have “face,” which is a much different thing. It is along the lines of what shows publicly, rather than what is real. I encountered this time and again in my work over there, disconcerting and frustrating. Communism was so awful, so hard on the human spirit, it is difficult to put one’s self in their shoes, but they are not bad people. They have different ethics though, and this must be understood to help them be productive.

David Chappell
May 26, 2015 6:59 am

I am curious why you refer to him by his given name, Zuoxiu, rather than his family name Hu?
On the question of safety, it’s not the integrity of the reactors that are the question but the integrity of the buildings and supporting systems. Corruption is endemic and bad (not just poor) workmanship a daily fact of life. I guess the almost daily major catastrophes don’t get reported in the West and even here on the edge of the country in Hong Kong we don’t get the full story. Remember, China is a country where people will fake anything – water, eggs, milk powder, Ferraris, the list is endless.

Reply to  David Chappell
May 26, 2015 8:36 am

How about the integrity of the operators?

Reply to  David Chappell
May 26, 2015 2:47 pm

Either he is a friend or he doesn’t know first name last?

May 26, 2015 7:05 am

I think the west also made errors by ignoring Thorium and simply adapting submarine nuclear plants to land based concrete structures. The inherent dangers of commercial nuclear power stem from profit based engineering by adaptation, instead of fresh, innovative designs which are not centered around producing weapons grade byproducts. If we had pioneered this more carefully, Chernobyl would have been the only disaster of record. (IMHO)

May 26, 2015 7:16 am

The dominant ingredient in the fear for nuclear energie is radiation. There is no reason for that Chernobyl claimed about 60 lives by radiation and Fukushima none. There is a controversy about whether the Iodine that was released at Chernobyl caused thyroid cancers, but even if that is really the case, the human price is still relatively low – certainly considering the millions that are claimed/expected/feared to die in such an accident.
To get cancer one needs a dosis of somewhere between 100 and 200milliSievert and those levels were rarely reached in Chernobyl and Fukushima (I am talking about the general population, not about what happened inside the troubled plants).. At levels above that radiation can cause cancer, but it is considered a weak carcinogen.

Reply to  theorichel
May 26, 2015 9:23 am

I attended the 1996 conference in Minsk reviewing the first decade of post-Chernobyl follow up.
The headlines were:
– Zero leukemia excess (insufficient irradiation, wrong radiation tissue distribution)
– A hundred or so childhood thyroid cancers, most of which successfully treated since (a) it is a highly treatable cancer and (b) due to intense international medical attention in the affected regions, mostly south Belarus and Ukraine plus a little Russia (Chernobyl is close to the “triple-point” meeting of those three republics but due to wind, Belarus got most fallout.)
– Most deaths among elderly people were linked to the stress of being unnecessarily evacuated.
– The big number “estimated deaths” were hypothetical statistical artefacts only based on belief (contrary to abundant experimental evidence) in the “linear no-threshold” hypothesis of radiation carcinogenesis down to zero dose.

Andrew Parker
May 26, 2015 7:18 am

China sold Ecuador an air traffic control system that didn’t work and built them a bridge that could not carry heavy trucks. There is good reason to be afraid of nuclear contamination from poorly engineered, constructed and maintained facilities. While they may get it right a few times, they are bound to slip up.

May 26, 2015 7:33 am

They will have to change China Syndrome to America Syndrome.

Gary Hladik
Reply to  Mark and two Cats
May 26, 2015 10:02 pm

Sheldon Cooper fun fact: “…despite popular lore, there is no place in the continental United States, Alaska or Hawaii from which one can dig straight through the center of the earth and come up in China.”
— “The Big Bang Theory” Season 6 Episode 10

Reply to  Gary Hladik
May 27, 2015 11:58 am

Indeed. It’s Australia that’s on the opposite side of the Earth from the US. I was always disappointed that they never demonstrated this on Looney Toons. ^¿^

Reply to  Gary Hladik
May 27, 2015 2:34 pm

Well if we’re gonna get picky, it doesn’t matter what is under a reactor during a meltdown – the molten blob would stop at the center of the earth. Why would it go “up hill” to the other side of the globe?

May 26, 2015 7:52 am

Some time ago it came to light that in Taiwan in an entire neighbourhood the steel that was used to build the houses was heavily contaminated with radioactive Cobalt. The residents, about 10.000 received a radiation dosis of 400 milliSievert (over a period of 9-20 years, which is important). Today the debate is about whether these exposed people have lower levels of cancer or not. At least not higher as elsewhere. So to Andrew Parker: There is good reason to be afraid of poorly engineered, constructed and maintained facilities, but nuclear contamination is not a very important part of the threat.

Steve P
Reply to  theorichel
May 26, 2015 9:02 am

Yes, this is known as radiation hormesis, which in theory at least seems to have merit, but which is about as contentious a subject as climate change.
The study you mention was flawed in that it did not control for age.
A subsequent study by Hwang et al. (2006) found the incidence of “all cancers” in the irradiated population was 40% lower than expected (95 vs. 160.3 cases expected), except for leukaemia in men (6 vs. 1.8 cases expected) and thyroid cancer in women (6 vs. 2.8 cases expected), an increase only detected amongst those exposed before the age of 30. Hwang et al. proposed that the lower rate of “all cancers” might due to the exposed populations higher socioeconomic status and thus overall healthier lifestyle, but this was difficult to prove. Additionally, they cautioned that leukaemia was the first cancer type found to be elevated amongst the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, so it may be decades before any increase in more common cancer types are seen.
Besides the excess risks of leukaemia and thyroid cancer, a later publication notes various DNA anomalies and other health effects among the exposed population.

Steve P
Reply to  Steve P
May 26, 2015 9:15 am

Grammatical note:
it may be decades before any increase in more common cancer types are is seen.
This is a common grammatical error, which I dub false subject, where the object of a prepositional phrase may be mistaken for the real subject of the sentence.

May 26, 2015 7:57 am

Is there any chance that this was brought up by the Guardian to discourage nuclear plants in Britain??

May 26, 2015 8:01 am

Don’t know if “pressure to reduce CO2” exists in China (I seriously doubt it) but pressure to cut corners and costs…. Most likely.

May 26, 2015 8:24 am

After 21 years working in nuclear power, I’d GLADLY go to China to build plants. (Planning on investigating that this summer while on break from BUS DRIVING, which I hate!!!) Anyway, I guess the problem is I’m very “politically incorrect”. I think the 12 of 14 members of the Politburo should take a vote. 12 to 14, and either order this clown executed or deported (permanently) from China!

Reply to  Max Hugoson
May 27, 2015 2:43 am

Here’s me wanting to drive busses after over 30 years in IT. Aircon, comfy air sprung seat, automagic gearbox, what’s not to like?

May 26, 2015 8:28 am

The Guardian is the last refuge of Britain’s colonial fantasists who think they can rule from Britannia the grass-skirted natives who live in countries like China.
Just as the Guardian’s intervention in Iowa in the US election of 2000 brought JW Bush to power in the USA, the appearance of their unwelcome noses in China’s nuclear debate will greatly strengthen the hand of the nuclear lobby there, and elsewhere.
They could be the nuclear lobby’s best friend worldwide.

May 26, 2015 8:31 am

My comment makes little sense, unless I put in the “12 of 14 of the Politburo who were trained as ENGINEERS”…then the 12 to 14 vote to EXPELL/DEPORT would make sense.

May 26, 2015 8:34 am

It’s understandable that to today’s anti-nuclear eco-colonialists, China is the new “yellow peril”.

May 26, 2015 9:02 am

Oh, good grief. Fukushima was actually a testament to how nuclear safety features WORKED. Unit #1 at Fukushima was the first commercial reactor in Japan and was only 3 weeks from final shutdown for decommissioning when the quake struck. Total toll at Fukushima — 0 dead, 0 injured, 0 sicked in a worst case triple meltdown scenario. The factors that caused those problems in those three units do not exist in the Chinese units being built. Modern reactors do not rely on outside power to pump cooling water or to operate emergency safety gear.
What media are very careful not to mention is that the OTHER nuclear complex at Fukishima, Fukushima Dai Ni, weathered the same quake without major incident. Those were newer design reactors that used their own decay heat to drive turbine pumps for cooling and did not rely on electric pumps from outside power.
And, had the quake happened three weeks later after Unit 1 had already been shut down for a while, this disaster would never have happened at all. It was quirks of Unit 1 that caused a cascade failure that increased the damage to the others. The hydrogen explosion at Unit 1 caused damage to the cooling water supply to units 2 and 3. Add to this the absolutely horrible reporting on this and it is no wonder people are unduly afraid. I would much rather live next door to a modern nuclear plant than an oil refinery. More people died on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig than died at Fukushima. More people died in 2011 from organic sprouts and cantaloupe than died from Chernobyl. The entire death toll at Chernobyl is less than the average jetliner crash.

Steve P
Reply to  crosspatch
May 26, 2015 9:34 am

It is impossible to recognize or calculate any long-term health effects from the Fukushima triple melt-down until the long term has passed.
But nuclear power apologists are eager to close the books, and move on, ‘nothing to see here.
And Crosspatch, please share with us your plan to locate and retrieve the three coriums, and to prevent contaminated water from flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

Reply to  Steve P
May 26, 2015 10:27 am

There was no meltdown.

Steve P
Reply to  Steve P
May 26, 2015 10:51 am

Patrick May 26, 2015 at 10:27 am
“There was no meltdown.”

Tue May 24, 2011
Tepco confirms meltdowns at two more Fukushima reactors
The operator of the nuclear power plant…confirmed on Tuesday that there had been meltdowns of fuel rods at three of its reactors.

Reply to  Steve P
May 26, 2015 12:36 pm

“But nuclear power apologists are eager to close the books, and move on, ‘nothing to see here.”
That is nonsense, everywhere research into what happened at accidents, be it the atombomb itself or the development of it, be it Chernobyl or Fukushima just continues, and usually the conclusion is that the effects of the radiation are by far not as disastrous as pictured before. Now you may not like those conclusions.

Steve P
Reply to  Steve P
May 26, 2015 12:58 pm

theorichel May 26, 2015 at 12:36 pm
“That is nonsense, everywhere research into what happened…”
I don’t think it’s nonsense, because I was talking about nuclear power apologists, and not about researchers.
As you note, research is continuing not least of all because, as I said, the long term health effects cannot be known over the short term., so any declarations that there has been no harm from Fukushima, or any other nuclear event, cannot be known until perhaps several decades have passed, and are therefore entirely premature.
What are your ideas for the recovery of the coriums, and stopping contaminated water flow into the ocean?

Reply to  Steve P
May 26, 2015 4:31 pm

Fire induced melting occurred -which is not a meltdown in nuclear terms- basically a translation error.

Reply to  Steve P
May 26, 2015 4:32 pm

“prevent contaminated water”
contaminated by what?

Reply to  Steve P
May 27, 2015 2:48 am

I repeat for Steve P there was no meltdown. Michael correctly points that out. Steve P, you need to stay away from Wikipedia, it’s a bad as the Gaurdian for misinformation.

Reply to  Steve P
May 27, 2015 7:12 am

Steve P: They’ve been studying the affects on people from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions for 70 years. Is that long term enough for you?

Reply to  Steve P
May 27, 2015 1:14 pm

“Nuclear power apologists”
Don’t you just love how alarmists twist word to make it seem like their opponents are in the wrong. If you are in favor of Nuclear Power you are an ‘Apologist’ because, obviously, Nuclear Power has something to apologize for.
Maybe one of the ‘Nuclear Power Condemners’ here would like to do a real comparison on the safety record of the nuclear industry compared to ANY other major industry in the US. Any takers?

Alan Watt
Reply to  crosspatch
May 29, 2015 5:46 am

Many more people died in a single early steam boiler explosion incident than in all the nuclear power accidents in history.
From the Sultana steamboat explosion and sinking:

Sultana was a Mississippi River side-wheel steamboat. On April 27, 1865, the boat exploded in the greatest maritime disaster in United States history. An estimated 1,800 of her 2,427 passengers died when three of the boat’s four boilers exploded and she burned to the waterline and sank near Memphis, Tennessee.

Scale that up for US population growth from 1865 to present (35.2 to 320.6 million, or factor of 9.1), and that would be like a single disaster killing over 16,000 people in the US today.
If you compare nuclear power to an imagined perfect world, it appears dangerous. If you compare it instead to other risks we commonly accept or have successfully surmounted in the past, it looks darned good.

May 26, 2015 9:08 am

The first Japanese plants should be restarting and providing power to the grid by the end of July.

Bruce Cobb
May 26, 2015 10:36 am

Hark! What’s that sound? Why, it’s the sound of jobs that were coming back to US, mostly from China coming to a screeching halt.

Doug Saunders
May 26, 2015 11:06 am

I had never heard of the incredibly terrible Banqiao Dam disaster (171,000 deaths).
So, the worst energy disaster in history was caused by a renewable.

JT from Houston
May 26, 2015 12:02 pm

Well, looks like its back to fossil fuels.

May 26, 2015 12:21 pm

I hope the same construction companies involved in the China Olympics aren’t participating….

May 26, 2015 12:39 pm

The pic at the beginning of the lead post is of BWR design reactors @ a site in Pennsylvania. The failed reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi site were BWR design reactors.
There are no BWR design reactors operating in Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and there are no BWR design reactors under construction in PRC nor are there any BWR design reactors in the process of being contracted for in the PRC.

Reply to  John Whitman
May 26, 2015 1:32 pm

Picture and article of new nuclear power plant in China.

May 26, 2015 12:42 pm

“I’m unsettled that someone who prizes evidence based reasoning, could still consider themselves to be a Communist.”
Over the decades since Mao’s death, the Communist Party has morphed the definition of Marxism to a point that you probably agree with it. To quote Deng: “The essence of Marxism is seeking truth from facts.” They have converted to an economy not much less capitalist than the U.S. or Europe, and done it, at every step, under the banner of socialism.

Reply to  David Friedman
May 26, 2015 4:21 pm

I suggest that it is NATIONAL Socialism, in that the government does not own all of the means of production. They have all the hallmarks of NAZIs.

Reply to  David Friedman
May 27, 2015 7:15 am

The sad thing is, in many ways, China has become more of a capitalist country than the US.
Funny how socialists in the west are determined to bury capitalism, while former communists are adopting it.

May 26, 2015 3:29 pm

The largest solar panel company in China, Hanergy Thin Film Power Group, which lost half of its value last week, might not have even been making solar panels. HTF lost $18.6 billion in frantic trading last Wednesday, burning index-tracking stock funds in its wake and ‘losing’ its chairman and majority chair man Li Hejun $15 billion. Li shorted HTF by 796 million shares two days before the stock crashed…
According to hedge fund manager John Hempton, who visited Hanergy’s main Chinese factory last month, the vast complex appeared to be pretty much empty.
“It was almost entirely silent. There was essentially no production of solar cells at all and the accounts that suggest significant production and sales are entirely fraudulent.”
Brilliantly, the demonstration solar panels set up outside the factory were oriented away from the sun…

May 26, 2015 6:10 pm

Your own Lawrence Krauss is also a physicist and public educator campaigning against superstition; so is Neil de Grasse; Dawkins is a biologist campaigning against superstition, and Hawking is a physicist again… what has this to do with his take on nuclear safety?
The christian taliban, err, evangelicals would greatly benefit from actually listening. There are no more Phd students in the US that are actually American… ask Michio Kaku on this (there, another one!), or anybody in academia.

Reply to  Matt
May 27, 2015 7:17 am

What is it about atheists that makes them so eager to demonstrate their bigotry and ignorance to the entire world?

Reply to  MarkW
May 27, 2015 1:31 pm

Like most faithful of intolerant religions, extremist atheists believe that intolerance is a virtue. ‘Correcting Error’ is thus their highest calling.

Steve P
May 26, 2015 7:26 pm

Michael May 26, 2015 at 4:31 pm
“Fire induced melting occurred -which is not a meltdown in nuclear terms- basically a translation error”.
What rubbish!
There is no translation error. The Japanese are using the same term we are Triple Meltdown, which they render in katakana, used for words of foreign origin.
Tokyo was a horrible place in March 2011 in the midst of the triple meltdown of Fukushima.
toripuru merutodaun
triple meltdown

Reply to  Steve P
May 26, 2015 8:12 pm

Steve P,
If I am not being too forward, what is your background with languages? Judging by various posts, you seem very well versed, which is awesome! I can, like, barely, like, conversate in one.

Steve P
Reply to  Max Photon
May 26, 2015 8:46 pm

Thanks Max. I spent some time in Japan, and can understand, and read a little Japanese, but mostly I rely on Google for translation.

Reply to  Max Photon
May 27, 2015 2:52 am

Well, I used to set up PS/2 PC’s at Honda, in Kanji, used to measure engine bearings. As well as install MVS, in Kanji. And Lotus 123/MVS, in Kanji. DB2/MVS, in Kanji. Google did not exist then!

Reply to  Steve P
May 27, 2015 3:07 am

I don’t think there’s is much doubt about a meltdown of the core …
but where do you think it is ? … at the bottom of the RPV ? … at the bottom of the PCV ?
anywhere else ?
not that I want to minimize, but maybe our definitions of “disaster” are different …

Scott Scarborough
May 26, 2015 7:31 pm

China is using Westinghouse’s AP1000 nuclear power plant design. It seems safe to me. Does anyone have a problem with it?

Reply to  Scott Scarborough
May 26, 2015 8:08 pm

Some assembly required.

Steve P
May 26, 2015 8:41 pm

simple-touriste May 26, 2015 at 4:32 pm

“prevent contaminated water”
contaminated by what?

I don’t know if you’re trying to be cleverly dense, or adroitly ignorant, but anyone who’s even taken a cursory look at Fukushima would know that Tepco has been trying various methods, including construction of an ice wall to prevent radioactive water from flowing through or from the crippled reactor, and into the sea.
(図版提供:升本順夫・JAMSTEC ● Picture courtesy of Masumoto order husband · JAMSTEC
As shown in the figure… the path that radioactive material to flow into the sea, in addition to the direct runoff of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, drop from the atmosphere, it is considered the inflow from rivers and groundwater.

Nuclear Hotseat hosted by Libbe HaLevy, Mar 10, 2015 (at 41:00 in):
Seiichi Mizuno, member of Japan’s House of Councillors (Upper House of Parliament) from 1995-2001 –
“The biggest problem is the melt-through of reactor cores… We have groundwater contamination… The idea that the contaminated water is somehow blocked in the harbor is especially absurd… It is leaking directly into the ocean. There’s evidence of more than 40 known ‘hotspot’ areas where extremely contaminated water is flowing directly into the ocean… We face huge problems with no prospect of solution.”
水野誠一、1995年-2001年に日本の参議院(国会の上院議院)のメンバー –

The biggest problem is
the core’s melt-through
Extremely contaminated water is flowing directly into the sea

Reply to  Steve P
May 27, 2015 6:04 am

Fearless Fukushiming Leader: We’ll put the emergency cooling water systems down near the beach – what could go wrong?
Newby on Team: What about tsunami’s?
Fearless Leader: Screw it! It’s time for lunch. Are you a team player or not?
Team: Hai ! ( OK! )
Team: Oh Fukushima!

Steve P
May 26, 2015 9:10 pm

Ue o muite arukou 上を向いて歩こう.
Kyu Sakamoto 坂本九

May 27, 2015 12:25 am

Please define: ‘Extremely polluted water’

Larry Wirth
May 27, 2015 12:41 am

Steve, the sea is the best place for it.

May 27, 2015 1:16 am

There is nothing insane about China’s building plans. They are not anywhere near as aggressive as the US Nuclear buildout in the 1960’s and 1970’s or the Japanese nuclear build-out.
Doubling construction rate at a pace slower then every five years seems prudent and leaves plenty of room for build, learn, adjust.
We’ve made great strides in non-destructive inspect-ability since the 1960’s…we also have better containment designs then the GE Mark I’s at Fukushima.

Non Nomen
Reply to  harrywr2
May 27, 2015 4:56 am

The chinese seem to have serious issues about their building contractors.

The second, more widespread reason that construction projects do not follow strict communication protocols between interested parties is due to corruption. Construction projects require huge budgets and bank loans- by cutting corners here and there, developers and contractors can pocket large sums of money. This means skimping on things like wall insulation, substituting quality exterior and interior cladding materials for inferior ones, and even using cheaper plumbing and electrical equipment.

michael hart
May 27, 2015 2:55 am

Whatever problems there may, or may not be, in Chinese nuclear construction, we can at least sleep soundly in our beds knowing that nobody in China will be taking much notice of The Guardian.

May 27, 2015 5:44 am

“Construction of the Banqiao dam began in April 1951 on the Ru River with the help of Soviet consultants…”
What could go wrong?

May 27, 2015 10:53 am

Fukushima May Be At Risk Of Imminent “Hydrogen Explosion”

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