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China city suspends search for nuclear fuel facility

August 10, 2016 GMT

BEIJING (AP) — A city in eastern China city on Wednesday suspended preliminary work on site selection for a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility following days of protests by area residents that underscored a growing willingness by the public to oppose projects seen as threatening lives and property.

A one sentence notice posted Wednesday on the website of the Lianyungang city government offered no details on longer-term plans.

The city government had earlier responded to the weekend demonstrations in a downtown square by announcing that plans for the nuclear project were in early stages and no location had been confirmed.

The police responded additional protests Tuesday with a ban on unauthorized public gatherings and a call to disregard rumors. About a dozen people who threw stones were reportedly detained by police.

There have been no reports about the protests in Chinese media, indicating censors likely ordered publications to suppress information about them.

China has 32 reactors in operation, 22 under construction and more planned, making it the most active builder of nuclear power plants

The government has spent heavily to build up its ability to produce fuel and process waste and the state-owned China National Nuclear Corp. has been seeking to build a nuclear fuel reprocessing center with French partner Areva starting in 2020. State media say a unit of CNNC and its French partner have looked at more than 10 potential locations for the reprocessing center and did preliminary research last year on Lianyungang.

In 2013, similar plans to build a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in the southern city of Heshan, near Hong Kong, were scrapped following protests by residents over possible risks.

Chinese authorities also have scrapped or postponed other petrochemical and other industrial projects elsewhere following protests, but in some cases work goes ahead after tensions die down.