Archive for ‘natural disaster’

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fangchenggang Nuclear Plant: Full Consideration

 

Fangchenggang Location, Wikimedia Commons - click picture for source

Fangchenggang Location, Wikimedia Commons - click picture for source

[Main Link: chinanews.com via Enorth, Tianjin]

The Fangchenggang nuclear power plant is a project of Guangxi Fangchenggang Nuclear Power Group (广西防城港核电有限公司), a joint venture between China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co. (CGNPC, 广东核电集团有限公司) and Guangxi Investment Group (广西投资集团有限公司), and co-funded by a syndicate of Chinese banks and financial institutions, according to world nuclear news (wnn, London). CGNPC’s stake is reportedly 61 percent, and Guangxi Investment Group’s at 39 percent respectively. The National Development and Reform Commission (国家发展和改革委员会) approved construction in summer 2010, according to wnn’s report, which also reported that the project’s total investment was  expected somewhere near 70 billion yuan by August last year. The current first phase of construction appears to require much less investment:

The cost of constructing Phase I is 25 billion yuan ($3.7 billion). Some 87% of the equipment to be used in the Phase I units is expected to be sourced from Chinese suppliers. The first unit is scheduled to begin operating in 2015, while the second will start up in 2016.

Guangxi Fangchenggang Nuclear Power Group told a Xinhua [update, June 9, 2011: or a China News / 中新网 - JR] reporter on Wednesday that the power plant’s construction won’t be affected by the current Fukushima nuclear power plant accident (福岛核电站事故), and that there would be no delays in the project. The plant is scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2015, according to the article. Addressing possible concerns, the article continues:

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region’s Development and Reform Commission officials revealed that after the Fukushima accident, the state council had conducted [correction: rather than conducted, it reads  "put forward" or "advanced", (提出) - JR, 2011-03-24] a comprehensive investigation of the [Fangchenggang] nuclear facilities, strengthened safety management of the facilities, reviewed the site, strictly examined and approved the requirements on new projects. The Fangchenggang nuclear power project was fully in accordance with these requirements, and by own initiative, another inspection had been carried out after the Fukushima matter, to guarantee that there was no danger of anything going wrong (万无一失, wàn wú yī shī).

Project staff is quoted with more technical remarks, such as that the Fangchenggang plant is based on more advanced technology than Fukushima I [Fukushima I had first been commissioned in 1971, according to Wikipedia - JR].

Fangchenggang nuclear power plant had said that various factors were being taken into account to guarantee safety.

Full consideration of earthquakes and other natural disasters’ influence had been given to the choice of location, in the fold of Qinzhou, which was an area with the earth’s crust being comparatively stable; also considered had been  plane crashes, external explosions, tornados (龙卷风), etc.. Large-scale tsunamis also weren’t to be expected, but for safety reasons, tsunamis (海啸, hǎi xiào) and other waves due to storms had still been factored into the design. The last factor mentioned is the securing of electricity supplies to the plant’s safetey facilities in emergency situations.

According to the company, contingency and emergency plans had also been devised, with exclusion zones of five, ten, and more kilometers, equipment for such cases would be  ready to hand, and emergency drills would be conducted regularly to ensure that the public would be evacuated in time, in case of an accident.

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Related
Fangchenggang article by Wikipedia
Reactions to the Fukushima I Disaster, March 15, 2011
Alstom press release, March 2, 2011
Mitsubishi  press release, Nov 17, 2010
To start by 2014, China Daily, Dec 24, 2009

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Monday, March 21, 2011

A Matter of Experience

I think I’m all right, thank you. I’ve still got 10 kilograms of the stuff I bought during SARS.

An old Granny in a Beijing supermarket earlier this month, in reply to a helpful younger lady who offered to help her grab a bag of salt.

Overheard by Froog.

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Related
Salt, Autobahn, Free Elections, March 19, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Scientific: Salt, Autobahn, and Free Elections

The good news, for all the friends of free markets, is that Hong Kong is still a free market. Panic-buying in Hong Kong pushed up the retail price of salt to as high as HK$30 a catty, from the usual HK$2, according to the HK Standard (via ESWN). Eating lots of salt may help to ease your fear, but it can also kill you, if you eat too much of it, a warning tweet or other microblog post with a sad story from Zhejiang Province informs us.

Meantime, a saltrush in Guangdong Province has reportedly ebbed away, after several authorities in charge had refuted rumors (辟谣, pì yáo).

Or maybe it was rather once it dawned on the innocent (but chronically wary) buyers that they had been “fooled” yet again. On Friday, after the frenzy, Guangdong Provincial Price Bureau received complaints from citizens who wanted to return their salt bonanzas, and their money back, but were turned down by the retailers, reports the Yangcheng Evening Post (via Enorth). Inevitably, during the days of (occasional, I guess) panic, the Chinese retail market had turned out to be a very free market, too. Yangcheng Evening News also provides us with some salt statistics, courtesy Guangdong Provincial Salt Bureau (广东省盐务局).

The salt-buying frenzy began on March 16, at 2 p.m., and ended on March 18. But even though it lasted only for two days, it amounted to what would regularly be a one-month sales quantity. Some 1,000 tons were sold in Guangzhou on March 17. Normally, it would be 180 to 200 tons a day.

Seems that cool heads mostly prevailed in Guangzhou itself  – but then again, maybe there just wasn’t more salt on offer. Anyway, thinking of five Grannies instead of one buying salt, and near-empty shelves ahead, such situations probably have to lead to a strong sense of competition, for the survival of the fittest. Chaotic scenes were probably rather local phenomenons anyway, from Wednesday through Friday.


Let’s simplify this… how does a traffic jam occur? An experiment in Essen, Northrhine-Westphalia, tries to explain. All participating car drivers were told to keep an unvariable distance to each other, at a constant pace. It worked for ten minutes, which is actually quite good. The supervisor’s explanation: the bigger the differences in individual drivers’ pace, the more likely a jam will occur. On the Autobahn, car speeds differ widely.

Who caused the jam? Nobody knows. The driver who is to blame doesn’t know either. The jam occurs some fifteen to twenty cars further behind him or her. Once you get too close to the rear bumpers of the car in front of you, a chain reaction will occur behind you, as you have to brake, making the car behind you slamming on the brakes (more so than needed, maybe) obliging the next cars in the row to do likewise.

It’s a bit more complicated with buying frenzies, probably, because we have two circular flows here: the chain of buyers, and the stream of supplies.

But the moral of the story is the same: the buggers who cause the problems are likely to get away. Except for that anxious buyer in Zhejiang. He expired – or so the microblog quoted by ESWN is saying -

after taking in too much salt in order to ward off radiation. By the time that his family took him to the hospital, it was too late.

When nothing goes right, blame someone. A tweet as an example (please mind that China in itself is at various  mental developmental stages, and this may be meant seriously, or it may just be a bit of Jasmine fun):

This episode also shows that the Chinese government is failing its people.  The people want salt but there is no salt to be found anywhere.  This is the failure of the government.  If there were free elections, salt would be available to anyone who wants it anytime.

We have free elections in Germany, but we don’t have the universally five-lane autobahn we‘d like to have either.

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Related
Garlic Prices: to Buy is to Believe, May 14, 2010
Zigong (“Salt City”), Wikipedia

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Hu Jintao’s Condolences: Across a Narrow Strip of Water

[Main Link: Enorth, March 18, 2011 / Xinhua Net]

According to the foreign ministry’s website, state chairman Hu Jintao went to the Japanese embassy in Beijing on March 18 in the afternoon to express condolences for the victims of the “3-11″ earthquake. He and ambassador Uichiro Niwa also had a short meeting. On the behalf of the Chinese government and people, Hu Jintao gave his regards to ambassador Uichiro Niwa and the Japanese people, and expressed condolences to the victims. Hu Jintao said that China and Japan were friendly neighbors, across a narrow strip of water between them*) (中日两国是一衣带水的友好近邻). The Chinese government and people were actively supporting earthquake relief efforts in Japan, and would continue to provide all necessary help. He  wished the Japanese people that they would soon overcome the difficulties, and that they could rebuild their homes shortly. China is very concerned about the safety of Chinese citizens’ in Japan. After the “3-11″ earthquake, the Japanese government actively helped the Chinese citizens in Japan. The Chinese side expressed its sincere thanks.

Hu Jintao signs book of condolences at Japanese embassy in Beijing (click photo for Xinwen Lianbo news on YouTube)

Hu Jintao signs book of condolences at Japanese embassy in Beijing (click photo for Xinwen Lianbo news on YouTube)

[All statements in this second paragraph are quoting the Japanese ambassador.] Uichiro Niwa said that after the “3-14″ earthquake occured, H. E. Hu Jintao had [contacted] H. M. the Emperor [致电, which can mean either a phonecall, or, more likely, a telegram], wishing the Japanese people that they would soon overcome the difficulties, and that they could rebuild their homes shortly. The Chinese government had provided material assistance to Japan, and quickly dispatched an international rescue team to actively carry out rescue work. Many Chinese people had also expressed condolences to the Japanese side. With support from the international community, Japan was carrying out disaster relief. The Japanese government would  ensure the safety of Chinese citizens in Japan and make every effort to provide them with support and help. The Japanese side wanted to keep close contact and communication with the Chinese side.

State councillor Dai Bingguo (戴秉国), foreign minister Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪), vice minister of commerce Gao Hucheng (高虎城), the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries’ (CPAFFC, 对外友协会) president Chen Haosu (陈昊苏) and others accompanied [Hu Jintao] to condole and to take part in the meeting.

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Note
*) 一衣带水 yī yī dài shuǐ : the term expresses that even if there is something separating between two sides, it doesn’t create a great distance, and isn’t as broad as to discourage contacts (指虽有江河湖海相隔,但距离不远,不足以成为交往的阻碍) – zhidao.baidu.com

Related
China’s Hu offers Condolences, Kyodo News, March 18, 2011
Greying Protest Elegy, December 11, 2010

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reactions to the Fukushima I Disaster

I don’t know a great deal about how nuclear power plants work. Nor do I know if it was the earthquake itself or rather the tsunami which disabled cooling / safety mechanisms at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant. And nobody can tell yet as to how far the struggle for containing the fallout will be successful, or as to how far it will fail to succeed.

But people and governments in different places are drawing conclusions already. There is political fallout that the civil nuclear industry will struggle to contain, at least in some countries.

Fukushima is bad news for all of us, and for Japan (possibly for neighboring countries, too) in particular. It’s also bad news for the nuclear industry – General Electric, for example. The company hopes to sell nuclear reactors to India. Bloomberg quotes Debasish Mishra, Mumbai-based senior director at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, as saying that

The Japan accident has created a very, very tough situation for India, actual implementation of nuclear power projects will now certainly take a backseat [...]. It will be very difficult to sell the idea of nuclear power to people for any political party after the Japan disaster.

It may be a different story in China.

Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, is quoted as saying (also by Bloomberg) that Fukushima I may become a factor in the drafting of China’s energy plans. But the same news article adds that

in China, the government won’t change its plans to develop nuclear power, Zhang Lijun, vice minister of environmental protection, said a day after the 8.9-magnitude temblor struck off the eastern coast of Japan. Local media said the death toll from the quake and ensuing tsunami may exceed 10,000.

China has pledged to cut carbon emissions by switching to clean energy such as nuclear and wind power. It wants at least 15 percent of its energy mix to come from non-fossil fuels by 2020 and is building more atomic plants to help meet that goal.

Nuclear plants are apparently viewed quite positively in China. Most people I know think of them as clean sources of energy (and it’s said that they don’t smell, which is nice, too). Given that international affairs usually take second-seat in Chinese news anyway, the news about Fukushima may not leave as monumental an impression on Chinese minds anyway, as it may on, say, German minds. A majority of Germans has been skeptical of nuclear energy during all the industry’s history.

Censorship and the Department of Propaganda’s work may do the rest to keep the Chinese rather enthusiastic about nuclear fuel.

Some are enthusiastic for other reasons, given that disaster struck in Japan. ChinaSmack published a mixed bag of Chinese netizens’ comments. Censorship will, in all likelihood, distort the online picture of Chinese netizens’ reactions, be it for grossly and gleefully nationalist ones, be it for a comment like

“The casualties from an 8.9 event in China would be hundreds of times higher than in Japan.”

Censorship and propaganda will play a role in keeping the Chinese happy spectators of a nucelar energy policy.

But there may be more to it. Taiwan isn’t exactly panicking either. Klaus, a German journalist in Japan, wrote that Fukushima I has revived a public argument about the safety or unsafety of nuclear energy in Taiwan, where three nuclear power plants with six reactors are operating, and another one under construction. But Klaus also quotes Robin Winkler, co-chairman of Taiwan’s Green party (formerly an American, now a naturalized Taiwanese citizen), as saying that he doesn’t expect big demonstrations against nuclear power anytime soon. Taiwan’s per-capita energy consumption exceeds German consumption by 50 per cent, writes Klaus, and safety issues are hardly ever brought up by the media, he quotes Winkler, even though, ten years ago, then president Chen Shui-bian had halted construction of the fourth plant which is now again under construction.

That said, Taiwan’s opponents to nuclear fuel will organize demonstrations, if work on the fourth plant continues, Klaus quotes the Taipei Timeslarge-scale, if possible.

Did I mention that most Germans are skeptical of nuclear energy? The truth is that many are downright afraid of it. And the German center-right government, which – only months ago – prolonged a phase-out of German nuclear plants which had previously been negotiated with Germany’s major energy suppliers by its Social Democrat / Green predessors, is now downright afraid of the public mood. Seven German plants – built before 1980 – will be taken off the gridlines for at least three months, chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday. One of them, Neckarwestheim, will be switched off for good. Elections are looming in Baden-Württemberg, and in Rhineland-Palatinate.

It’s hard to imagine that Fukushima I won’t have an impact on public opinion in Japan. But right now, the mere struggle for survival probably eclipses any such debate.

Monday, January 3, 2011

JR’s Blog Review: Unyielding Principles

Stuart (Found in China) is angry – at John Lee, or Lee’s article at Forbes. Lee quotes a faint suspicion – that there’s a growing suspicion – that, in turn, there could be the remote possibility that China is increasingly taking a zero-sum rather than ‘win-win’ approach to open markets and free trade.

The issue here is China’s curb on the export of rare earths, and the suspicion would be that Beijing is attempting to force foreign companies who want access to large quantities of rare earth metals to form joint-ventures with local firms and base their manufacturing operations within China.

But it’s Lee’s conclusion which makes Stuart hit the roof:

The suspicion is that illegitimately optimising imported technology has become one primary strategy for many of China’s domestic champions – an approach that is condoned by the Chinese Communist Party. If so, this goes to the heart of whether China is emerging as a responsible stakeholder in the global economic system.

Whether?! Lee still hasn’t drawn any conclusions, concludes Stuart.

JR, the China Expert, mostly agrees with Stuart’s conclusions. With one exception, that is. Stuart, it seems to him, keeps calling for China to become a responsible stakeholder. But why should they, as long as they’ll get what they want, anyway? It takes two to tango, and western business people are breaking each others’ noses to get their turn with the CCP.

Less frequently angry than either of the a/m bloggers, Adam Cathcart wonders all the same why Chinese diplomacy – apparently haplessly stirring up security concerns among its East and South-East Asian neighbors -,  is in fact in disarray, and why it doesn’t seem to matter to Beijing. Cathcart quotes from the Economist:

Maybe China has decided that, contrary to its own protestations, it does not really need smooth foreign relations. Or maybe its diplomacy is a mess. The Chinese scholar offers three possible explanations. One is the confusing proliferation of “non-diplomatic” bodies and special-interest groups in foreign policy, from oil firms to the army to, in the case of Japan, the marine affairs and fisheries bureaus. But the other two may be more telling: the increasing importance of Chinese public opinion and the absence of any senior political figure in charge of foreign policy. The foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, is not a member of the Communist Party’s 25-member Politburo, let alone its nine-member, decision-making Standing Committee. There is nobody to thump the table for foreign relations. Abroad does not matter very much.

Neither the middle kingdom’s near abroad, nor the middle of nowhere, i. e. America. Not even Africa or Latin America, places longing for being liberated from the imperialist world order. What counts, for now, is business.

Development is the Unyielding Principle (发展才是硬道理).

That helped and helps to solidify the CCP’s rule over China. Besides, if the outside world, near and far, begins to scheme against China, the resulting siege mentality inside the country will help to solidify the party’s rule, too. After all, not even an “East Asian NATO” would endanger China’s development – but it would look beautifully dangerous, and help to rally all patriotic forces behind their correct leadership.

In this game, diplomats are about as relevant as Chinese experts who attend “Global Times” workshops, or as Han Han. Or as a individual foreign joint-venture stakeholder, once the wanted technology has been successfuly dumped transferred.

That the CCP is no longer a totalitarian party, but only authoritarian, is a narrative which is told among foreigners without reservations.

The problem is that Marxists are considered crackpots these days. Especially by business people, of course.

But JR believes that most Marxists have studied the CCP much better – and understand its ways much better – than those who keep repeating the business-friendly CCP mantra.

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Related
ECFA: China’s Primacy of Politics, July 3, 2010

Friday, December 31, 2010

2011: The Leaders’ Footprints, so together with the People

China National Radio (CNR) republished a photostory by Xinhua Politics (新华时政) on Friday, under the headline Together with the People – This Year’s Footprints of China’s Leaders (与人民在一起——中国领导人的一年足迹). China’s senior leaders went to all parts of the country in person (中国高层领导人身体力行), for inspections and research on the ground.

The Qianlong Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Twelve (detail): Return to the Palace

The Qianlong Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour, Scroll Twelve (detail): Return to the Palace (Wikimedia / Palace Museum, Beijing - click on the picture for source)

Photos within Article
Hu Jintao (胡锦涛) 8
Wu Bangguo (吴邦国) 2
Wen Jiabao (温家宝) 3
Jia Qinglin (贾庆林) 2
Li Changchun 李长春 2
Xi Jinping (习近平) 4
Li Keqiang (李克强) 3

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Picture 1: Hu Jintao visits an affordable-housing project (保障性住房常营项目) in Chaoyang District, Beijing. On Wednesday, Hu, accompanied by members of the politbureau, Beijing’s party secretary Liu Qi and others, visited some basic-level working units  and makes thorough inquiries about the situation of poor families and the people’s livelihood.

Picture 2: Hu on an inspection tour in Hebei province, in a rural village belonging to Sanhe City.

Picture 3: Hu visits the Shanghai World Expo construction site. This is where Hu Jintao encourages the construction workers to work tirelessly, and to strive for high-standards and quality.

Picture 4: Hu visits Fujian province, talks with people on duty on that February 14 (Spring Festival), and on February 15, still in Fujian, he celebrates with numerous cadres, the masses, and with compatriots from Taiwan.

Picture 5: Hu visits the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. On the picture, he encourages an agriculture-related company to achieve greater results in the rural population’s income, as it develops modern agriculture.

Picture 6: Hu guides the earthquake relief work in Yushu, Qinghai province.

Picture 8: as night falls, Wu Bangguo meets workers at Zhenhua Heavy Industry Company’s base in Nantong, Jiangsu province, accompanied by Shanghai party secretary Yu Zhengsheng.

Picture 10:  Wen Jiabao near Dragon King Temple in Hankou, Wuhan province, on July 23, wading through the river water to inspect the situation.

Picture 12: Wen Jiabao joins a Taijiquan exercise in Macau, November 14.

Picture 13: Jia Qinglin on an inspection tour in Shanghai, on January 22, visiting a shipyard.

Picture 14: Jia Qinglin visits the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, meets delegates of all the masses’ nationalities, and has cordial discussions with them on China western development.

Picture 15: Politbureau standing committee member Li Changchun visits the Central Opera House, cordially talking with the Opera’s former conductor Zheng Xiaoying.

Picture 17: Xi Jinping visits Hubei province, and cordially talks with people registering their newborn baby with the local authorities on January 21.

Picture 21: Li Keqiang visits China Shipbuilding Industry Group, stresses the need to adapt to global economic and technological changes, and effectively safeguard energy supplies.

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Related
Eastday: Behind the Bund, December 15, 2010
Tossing the Mountain around, November 8, 2010
Schools in Qinghai, April 16, 2010
Hu Haifeng, in his Academic Capacity, March 11, 2010
Red Flag Review Car, Wo Buy Ni, October 24, 2009
Jia Qinglin: Serf Emancipation Day, March 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Press Conference: Natural Disasters, January – September 2010

The State Council Information Office held a press conference on Tuesday, reports chinanews.com.cn [via Enorth]. Land and Natural Resources deputy minister Wang Min (汪民, Wāngmín) told the press conference that geological disasters this year had been serious, and that they could be explained with four causes – meteorological and geological factors, earthquakes, and the capabilities to control disasters [the last point apparently pointing to limits on the ability to prevent disasters]. Up to September, 29,000 “geological disasters” occured (or 26,000, as quoted by CNTV), 368 of which had led to injuries and deaths. 2,892 people were dead or missing as a result, and economic damage amounted to 6,26 billion Yuan.

Wang explanatory list included exceptional meteorological factors (特殊的气象因素); geological causes (地质地貌原因) which had featured relatively prominently this year, especially in western mountainous areas; and the aftermath of earthquakes (地震活动的影响), as the 5-12 Wenchuan earthquake of 2008 in particular had added to existing geological instabilities in the belt of Sichuan, southern Shanxi and southern Gansu [the area of southern Gansu, 甘南 or Gānnán, apparently refers to parts of historical Greater Tibet - JR] . Disaster prevention or relief capabilities were lagging behind the occurences (防治能力的滞后), as the combination of factors experienced this year had rearely been seen before. Even though capabilities had been expanded in recent years, it had been difficult to keep pace with the events.

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Related
‘Grim situation’ at Three Gorges Dam, China Daily, May 24, 2010
Cracks on Li Peng’s Memorial, March 18, 2010
Wenchuan Earthquake and Zipingpu Reservoir, Febr 5, 2009
CNTV English (CCTV Website)

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