Radio Free Asia Series on China Nuclear Risks Wins Award for Excellence in Journalism

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A road sign near the Daya Bay nuclear facility in Guangdong, China.

WASHINGTON – Radio Free Asia (RFA) today was named a winner of the Sigma Delta Chi award for excellence in journalism by the Society of Professional Journalists. RFA’s Cantonese Service’s investigative series on China’s nuclear energy risks, “A Citizenry Left in the Dark: China’s Nuclear Power Industry,” won in the category of radio investigative reporting. The series, which aired in four parts in December 2014, follows on RFA’s revelations in June 2010 when a nuclear power plant in close proximity to Hong Kong leaked radioactive material.

Millions in China live and work near nuclear plants but are left in the dark about the dangers,” said Libby Liu, President of RFA. “Radio Free Asia’s Cantonese Service tirelessly pursued this story in depth, reporting on the potentially catastrophic consequences ignored by China’s state-controlled media and authorities.

“Credit for this great honor goes entirely to RFA Cantonese, which is bringing attention to a serious issue that has vast impact in China and the region.”

In June 2010, radioactive substances were detected in cooling water at the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in southern Guangdong, China’s most populous province. After RFA Cantonese broke the story, local authorities claimed that the danger to the public was “negligible.” Four years after the incident, an RFA undercover film crew traveled to the site to investigate safety conditions in the area. RFA’s team learned that local residents remain woefully ignorant of the danger of nuclear waste, even though waste from the power plant is dumped at a site that is five kilometers from where they live. RFA found also that, in order to prevent the rise of popular discontent in the aftermath of the 2010 radioactive leak, local authorities have been providing generous monthly living subsidies to those living within the immediate vicinity of the plant to quell discontent and concerns among locals.

RFA’s four-part multimedia series also explores safety issues surrounding Guangdong’s Huizhou Nuclear Power Plant, one of 26 nuclear power plants under construction in China. The majority of local residents interviewed by RFA were only vaguely aware, if at all, of the existence of the nuclear plant, much less the health risks of living close by. China is in the midst of a serious push to expand its nuclear power industry to lessen reliance on fossil fuels. What is troubling, especially in the post-Fukushima era, is that there does not exist in the country a comprehensive national program to provide citizens with information on possible public health hazards in their communities; nor have the authorities established emergency plans and response mechanisms in the event of a nuclear accident.

Previous years’ contest winners in radio include CBS News Radio, CNN Radio, Public Radio International’s The World (WGBH), and National Public Radio. This occasion marks the first time RFA has won a Sigma Delta Chi. Awards will be presented to recipients at a reception to be held on June 26 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

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