China urged to take technological risk more seriously

By Li Jiao

, by Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net)

The recent nuclear scare in Japan has reinforced pressure in China to raise its awareness of the risks of new technologies.

Like many other countries, China is currently reviewing the safety of its nuclear power programme following the damage caused by Japan’s tsunami to the Fukushima nuclear plant in March, promising that ’full safety checks’ of existing reactors would be carried out.

Although the government has also suspended approval of future nuclear projects until a new nuclear safety plan is published — currently expected before the end of the year — it is widely anticipated that its construction programme for nuclear power plants will resume at that point.

At the same time, however, the potential dangers highlighted by the Fukushima accident have reinforced growing demands for the country to strengthen its approach to risk management for all types of technological emergencies.

Critics believe that despite some recent signs of progress, there are still serious gaps in the government’s preparedness plans for such situations. They argue that risk evaluation needs to be increased across the board, from areas such as genetically modified (GM) crops to the impact of human-induced global warming on food production.

Their argument is that, too often, safety concerns have fallen victim to cost-cutting and even corruption in the country’s headlong pursuit of economic growth.

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