Philip Johnstone asks what we can learn from the UK’s failure to develop a viable nuclear reprocessing industry. China has one the most ambitious nuclear programmes in the world. Over the next five years, it plans to build 40 nuclear power plants at a time when most western countries are winding down their nuclear programmes. The strategy involves building commercial reprocessing facilities to store and process hazardous waste, a by-product of nuclear energy. Recent plans to build a reprocessing plant in Lianyungang, in Jiangsu province, were stalled after thousands of locals took to the streets in opposition to the proposed Sino-French facility, prompted by environmental and health concerns. The delay offers an opportunity to pause and asses the experiences of other nations that have pursued a reprocessing strategy. The United Kingdom’s experience suggests that reprocessing is dangerous, not as green as proponents claim and economically unsound. The history of the UK’s longstanding commercial reprocessing activities offers a cautionary tale regarding the pitfalls, which will impact British national policy for decades to come.
China Dialogue 6th Oct 2016 read more »