Fukushima's China Impact

Qinyi Geng
February 5, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Country Opposed before Opposed after Change
China 28 58 +30
Japan 28 58 +30
India 19 39 +20
Turkey 52 71 +19
France 53 67 +15
UK 41 51 +10
US 36 46 +10
Table 1: Increased opposition to nuclear after Fukushima (%). [6]

The tsunami following the Tohoku earthquake initiated a series of massive meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011. The resulting Fukushima nuclear disaster is one of the most well- known nuclear accidents and had tremendous impact on Japan, its neighbouring countries, and the world's nuclear power development. China, one of its largest neighbouring countries, was greatly impacted in terms of environment, social reaction, and nuclear policy development.

Environmental Impacts

The environmental impact due to Fukushima accident was unprecedented. Radioactive materials released from the Fukushima reactors floated in the air as a radioactive plume and raindrops from above the radioactive plume carried the radioactive material back to the earth. [1] The Chinese government and public have been concerned whether the radioactive material will reach the country through the sea.

However, no research has shown a definitive impact on the Chinese land or sea. In fact, a recent research detecting the tissue distribution of radioactive materials found that white croakers and other fishes captured in the East China Sea are mostly uncontaminated. [2] It remains uncertain how much real impact the accident had on China's environment.

Social Impacts

Although no definitive evidence has shown that the radioactive material from Fukushima has reached China, the Chinese public was extremely worried post the accident. In fact, people in coast cities such as Shanghai, Fujian, and Xiamen bought excessive amounts of iodized salt after hearing the rumor that Iodine can prevent the harm from radioactive material. Nearly all major shops ran out of salt during the next several months after the accident.

People also perceived nuclear power more negatively. As shown in Table 1, the increased amount of opposition in China to nuclear after Fukushima is the same as the change amount in Japan and much more than that of the other countries. A global Ipsos poll in June 2011 found that out of the 25 countries surveyed, consumers in China is the most sensitive in avoiding Japanese product because of Fukushima. [3] A research sponsored by the Chinese Natural Sciences Foundation also shows that Chinese public's perception of nuclear risk increased from limited risk to great risk after the event. [4]

Political Impacts

Many countries showed down their developments in nuclear power after the Fukushima accident, and China was certainly one of them. [5] Following Fukushima, China doubled its target for solar and pushed strongly with wind power, while decreasing its expected 2020 nuclear capacity from 80GW to 63GW. [6] The National Energy Administration in Beijing further noted that post the accident, China suspended plans for more nuclear plants temporarily to make sure that the plants did not hold more uranium than they were designed for. [6]


The Fukushima nuclear disaster impacted China on its environment, social perception, and nuclear power development policy. In fact, not all its impacts are negative. After all, it is important to remember the accident so as the better manage the risk of nuclear plants in China.

© Qinyi Geng. 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] Y. Hatamura et al., The 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident: How and Why It Happened (Elsevier, 2015), p152.

[2] T. M. Nakanishi and K. Tanoi, Agricultural Implications of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident (Springer 2013), p 105.

[3] "Global Citizen Reaction to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster," Ipsos, June 2011.

[4] L. Huang et al., "Effect of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident on the Risk Perception of Residents Near a Nuclear Power Plant in China," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 110, 19742 (2013).

[5] B. Li, "Recent Developments in Chinese Nuclear Energy," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2016.

[6] D. Elliott, Fukushima Impacts and Implications (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).