Protests Against Nuclear Waste Project in China

Claudia Cheng
May 4, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant (Source Wikimedia Commons).

The expansion of nuclear power in China has inevitably led to its growing nuclear waste problem. Chinese citizens are a strong force in objecting the increasing nuclear waste and denouncing plans to build new nuclear power stations as well as nuclear recycling plants near their homes.

Thousands of Chinese citizens have taken to the streets to protest against a $15 billion nuclear waste project, consisting of a nuclear fuel processing and recycling plant in Lianyungang, a city in Jiangsu Province. [1] Lianyungang is 20 miles from a coastal nuclear power plant at Tianwan (as seen in Fig. 1), where more nuclear plants are waiting to be built. Anxious about radiation risks from new nuclear plants, the protesters chanted the slogan "oppose nuclear waste, defend our home," and decried that "it is unsafe to see another nuclear project coming and besieging us." [1]

The conflagration of protests even spread online. Many messages with a picture of a face covered in a mask holding up a sign with a red X over a nuclear radiation sign spread across the Chinese Twitter-equivalent website

Response and Action by Government

The Chinese government's initial reaction to citizens' protests was an ambitious response that the project was still up in the air, and it also threatened to prosecute future protestors. [1] However, due to increased fervent street protests by thousands of citizens, the government of Lianyungang finally decided to take action and halt their original plans to build the nuclear fuel plant on site. [2] Furthermore, the government of Lianyungang sent out an official announcement that they have "suspended preliminary work for selecting a site for the nuclear cycle project." [2]

However, even after the government's decision to halt the project, citizens have still been marching the streets with their protests, on a smaller scale. Citizens believe that the government's current action does not mean the nuclear waste project is over. The suspension could potentially be lifted at any point, so the citizens are making sure that their voices are continued to be heard.


This incident illustrates that public protests and distrust have the power to alter China's plans to expand its nuclear power industry. The responsiveness of the Chinese government to public opinion on nuclear waste shows that people's voices do make a difference in the grand scheme.

© Claudia Cheng. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] C. Buckley, "Thousands in Eastern Chinese City Protest Nuclear Waste Project," New York Times, 8 Aug 16.

[2] C. Buckley, "Chinese City Backs Down on Proposed Nuclear Fuel Plant After Protest," New York Times, 10 Aug 16.