Nuclear power isn’t the way forward for Hong Kong

Frances Yeung says Hong Kong should focus on renewables and natural gas for a low-carbon future, rather than risk a disaster like Fukushima

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 December, 2015, 7:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 December, 2015, 7:00am

While the world’s leaders discuss climate change in Paris, Hong Kong has an opportunity to announce a cleaner energy plan that will reduce greenhouse gases and keep its residents safe from the dangers of nuclear power.

By conserving power and developing renewable energy, Hong Kong can stop importing nuclear energy from the mainland while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Hong Kong must create a clean climate road map, free of the dangers of nuclear energy.

Nuclear power supporters ignore the dangers... However, nuclear waste is a significant threat to the environment

In 2010, the government proposed that the share of nuclear power in its fuel mix should be substantially increased, to 50 per cent by 2020, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Soon after this announcement, the radiation leak at Fukushima in Japan occurred, arousing strong opposition from citizens who urged the government to revoke the plan. In 2014, the government finally confirmed that nuclear power should be 25 per cent of Hong Kong’s fuel mix.

Nuclear power supporters ignore the dangers, instead choosing to focus on carbon dioxide levels, the main source of greenhouse gas emitted by the use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. However, nuclear waste is a significant threat to the environment; the Japanese government recently admitted, for example, that an employee at the Fukushima nuclear plant had been diagnosed with leukaemia as a result of the radiation leak.

READ MORE: Hong Kong should end nuclear energy imports after Daya Bay contract ends in 2034, Greenpeace says

A groundswell of anti-nuclear sentiment exists in Hong Kong and the government should promptly eliminate our dependency on such power. It can execute the existing policy in which coal-fired generating units are replaced with natural gas, removing the need for nuclear power and reducing total carbon emissions.

The contract with Shenzhen’s Daya Bay nuclear power plant ends in 2034 and can also be used as a measuring stick. The Energy Saving Plan unveiled by the government this year sets a target of reducing Hong Kong’s electricity use by 10 per cent by 2025. If the goal were extended to 2034, that could be cut by nearly 20 per cent.

READ MORE: China’s nuclear power equipment makers deserve a closer look, say analysts

Hong Kong also has the potential to develop renewable energy. Research by City University estimates that setting up solar energy equipment equivalent in size to 30 per cent of Hong Kong’s developed areas would be sufficient to supply 30 per cent of electricity needs.

The impact of the Fukushima disaster is ongoing. Recent research found that teenagers who were close to the nuclear power plants during the radiation leak are 20 times more at risk of thyroid cancer.

Hong Kong should learn from past tragedies and develop renewable energy and a clean, low-carbon future.

Frances Yeung is a senior campaigner at Greenpeace