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Imports Of Nuclear Power Opposed By Green Groups

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP – Sep 15, 2008

Environmental activists have opposed further imports of nuclear-generated electricity from across the border under a new energy agreement with the mainland, though a power supplier has hinted it might expand imports.

The activists maintain that nuclear energy is an unsustainable and unsafe option for meeting rising energy demand, though it is increasingly being revisited as an alternative to ease global warming without compromising energy security.

The remarks came after Hong Kong and the central government sealed a deal last month to extend natural gas supplies to the city and ensure a continuous import of nuclear power – at a level no less than the current flow – from the Daya Bay nuclear station.

Hong Kong has been consuming nuclear power since 1994 under a purchase agreement between CLP Power (SEHK: 0002) and Guangdong Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company, in which CLP had a 25 per cent stake through Hong Kong Nuclear Power Investment.

The agreement allows CLP to import up to 70 per cent of Daya Bay’s output.

In each of the past five years, CLP has imported between 4,700 and 5,100 gigawatt-hours at a price of about 50 cents per kilowatt.

Nuclear power and natural gas each account for about 20 per cent of Hong Kong’s total electricity supply, and 60 per cent comes from coal.

While Hong Kong imports nuclear power from Guangdong, CLP exports electricity to the province. In last year’s annual report, CLP said it wanted both to extend and expand the nuclear-import arrangement.

Edward Chan Yue-fai, a Greenpeace campaign manager, said Hong Kong would be taking the wrong approach towards clean energy by importing more nuclear power.

“We have strong reservations about expanding imports, as nuclear energy is neither safe nor sustainable,” Mr Chan said, citing nuclear plant incidents in Japan that jeopardised the safety of plant staff and nearby residents.

“It is too bad that the energy deal with the mainland did not include any renewable energy imports, like wind power. It is renewable energy we should expand, not nuclear.”

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, said the group was inclined not to support further imports, citing concerns about the disposal of nuclear waste and further efforts to conserve energy.

“We can’t just resolve one problem by creating another,” he said. “Instead of expanding our energy supply, we should consider managing our energy demand through conservation and efficiency.”

Besides, Mr Chu said, further imports might also be undesirable since the mainland still had a shortage of power.

A CLP spokeswoman said it was too early to tell if the company was going to increase imports of nuclear power. “We will further discuss arrangements on generation with the government and continue to explore opportunities to participate in nuclear energy in China.”

The company noted that the Daya Bay station operated in line with international safety standards, with no major incidents reported since commercial operations began in 1994.

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