According to a recent study conducted by Wageningen UR together members from two Chinese academic institutions, Chinese citizens still trust their government in planning for civil nuclear expansion despite the recent nuclear incident in Fukushima, Japan.
After a nuclear incident, trust in nuclear technology and in organisations that promote nuclear technology is usually subject to a world-wide decline, but this rule does not seem to apply to contemporary China. In recent years, the number of nuclear reactors in China has steadily increased. With 15 nuclear power plants in operation, 26 plants under construction and the construction of many more currently being planned, China is at the start of its nuclear era, undeterred by the recent nuclear incident in neighbouring Japan.
Three months after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the researchers conducted surveys in different villages around the Haiyang nuclear power plant in Shandong province. The power plant was under construction at the time of the study. They discovered that the people who lived near this plant still supported their government's nuclear energy plans. "And this wasn't because of a lack of information about Fukushima and the potential hazards of nuclear radiation," professor Mol explains, "The Chinese government communicated extensively about the accident, the causes and the potential effects on human health."
Based on surveys and in-depth interviews, the researchers believe that this trust is largely due to a lack of countervailing powers. "China does not have many independent NGOs and there is very little anti-nuclear energy activism. The government is the prime source of information about nuclear energy." The study even showed that Chinese citizens believe the government is the most reliable source of information when it comes to information provision on nuclear risks and accidents.
Another factor of influence is a general trust in the government's emergency response capacities, "Chinese citizens are positive on the past performance of their government during recent railway accidents, earthquakes and environmental incidents, and they project this onto possible future risks related to nuclear installations," professor Mol explains. He does doubt whether this will remain to be the case in the near future. "The increasing openness about and disclosure of environmental information in China, as well as the increasing room to maneuver for NGOs, means that this unconditional trust in governmental information and performance may change in the near future."