Uranium processing plan scrapped after protest by hundreds in southern China

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Local authorities in a southern Chinese city on Saturday scrapped a plan to build a uranium-processing plant, one day after hundreds of local residents protested against it because of safety worries.

The city government of Heshan in Guangdong province said in an online statement that it would halt the 37 billion yuan ($6 billion) project, which would have built facilities for uranium conversion and enrichment.

"The people's government of the city of Heshan has decided to respect the public opinion and will not consider the project by China National Nuclear Corp. at the Longwan industrial park," read the one-line announcement.

The decision came after hundreds of protesters paraded through the streets of Jiangmen on Friday, holding banners and wearing T-shirts with phrases opposing the project and chanting slogans. "Give us back our rural homes. We are against nuclear radiation," they shouted in scenes seen in television video.

Heshan is part of the greater Jiangmen area.

Increasingly aware of environmental safety, members of the Chinese public have been taking to the streets to oppose environmentally risky projects, and local governments have yielded under public pressure in some cases.

It also shows that the Chinese public has no other effective venue but street protests — which can turn violent — to voice their concerns. Environmentalists have long called on local governments to adopt steps allowing for greater transparency and better public involvement when introducing projects that may be environmentally risky.