Hong Kong has been a nuclear-powered society since 1994 with almost a quarter of its electricity coming from nuclear sources. The nearby nuclear power plant in Daya Bay is mainly intended to supply Hong Kong and 75% of its output goes to Hong Kong. China has plans for significant expansion of nuclear generation over the next decade and much of that generation is concentrated in Guangdong Province.
“With the events at Fukushima putting nuclear power sharply into focus, increased “literacy”on nuclear issues will help civil society in Hong Kong to discuss and debate the issues surrounding nuclear energy as a part of the current fuel mix,” announced the invitation circulated by Civic Exchange. This is a local public policy think-tank headed by CEO Ms Christine Loh.
Mr Michael Friedlander, Chief Risk Manager, APG Asset Management and former nuclear plant operator started proceedings with a talk on: “The basics of nuclear power in the context of overall energy supply, using the Daya Bay nuclear facility as an example.”
Following that talk, Mr Malcolm Grimston, Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Development Programme, Royal Institute of International Affairs , Chatham House, London spoke on: “Communication of incidents and risks – Lessons from Fukushima, an overview of the implications for risk and incident communications for Hong Kong and southern China. “How would a major incident be handled in Hong Kong,” he asked?
Unfortunately, while the first two speakers were lively and informative, as soon as Hong Kong Security Bureau representative Mr Wong stepped in the answer such questions and began his mono-direction affront of lists and acronyms the whole room was put to sleep.
The first question from the floor was confirmation of the role of money in Hong Kong affairs as far from asking about some technicality so well detailed by the speakers, our man asked about the compensation if there’s a bang..!
We were getting near the tea break when some pandemonium was distantly heard and, led in by environmental activist Dr. Man Si Wai (with Christine Loh doing her best to smile her way to the front) in trooped the “nonukes at China Hong Kong” group *** comprised on this day mainly of young women with an interesting exception in the legislator-activist Leung Kwok-hung, who had rallied in support.
The women quite screamed – Lily is chief screamer – their demands: “Immediate closing down of all nuclear reactors at Daya Bay and nearby Ling Ao; Immediately stopping construction of nuclear reactors at Yang Jiang and Tai Shan, and; Zero nuclear power on planet earth.”
Having vented their minority welcomed message the group were asked to leave and did.
After the break the French team took over with Dr Didier Kechemair – Independent consultant on energy and innovation and former Executive Deputy-Director of the French Commission for Nuclear Energy and Alternative Energies (CEA) – speaking on: “How will we put the lessons from Fukushima into practice in Hong Kong and other nuclear countries with existing and planned facilities, as well as “newcomer” countries interested in nuclear technology?”
Then it was the turn of Mr Bertrand Barre – Scientific Advisor to the Chairperson of the AREVA group and Professor Emeritus at Institut National des Sciences et Techniques Nucléaires (INSTN), France – speaking on: “Now and the Future, The technical dimension in China and in other nuclear countries: “What types of reactors are being built now and being planned for in China and elsewhere in the world? What are the consequences and impacts? What are the technical constraints and considerations for these types of reactors, in terms of siting of reactors, shielding, plant architecture, and safety facilities?”
However, after the earlier session and the excitement the French exposition was relatively dull. The prospects to retake the spirit might have been a lot better had Prof. Lin Boqiang – Director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, Peoples Republic of China – been able to attend to speak on, “Now and the Future, Clean Development, China’s Choices: An overview of Chinese policy on nuclear power in the context of its overall energy strategy to realize the development imperative. Why is China expanding her nuclear generation capacity? Where is it occurring? What is the time-line for implementation?” However, that was not to be, as the professor did not turn up.
On a personal note, this writer (in my capacity as chairman of the Humanist Association of Hong Kong) questioned the panel on why no one had introduced and even remotely mentioned anything to do with the link between nuclear weapons and nuclear power generation plants, adding that the Humanist Association of Hong Kong was totally against nuclear power and the weapons link was the main reason why.
Dr Didier Kechemair made what must have been a joking reply that there was no connection between nuclear power plants and weapons, which made the audience – who came to be made ‘literate’ about nuclear energy, laugh, just as they laughed at the nonukes group.
All-in-all, the forum was worthwhile and it was very useful that Civic Exchange made that effort. The event was funded by, China Light and Power Company, and supported by the School of Energy and Environment, City University of Hong Kong, and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
*** See: Mixed Reactions and Nuclear Fall-Out