China To Shut Taishan Nuclear Reactor After Fuel Damage
Posted 02/08/2021 10:11
China is shutting down a nuclear reactor in the south of the country “for maintenance” following an investigation into a potential fuel-rod problem, after the French nuclear operator EDF publicly recommended its closure last week.
When a possible leak at the Taishan power station was reported last month, Chinese authorities ruled out any danger at the site, which is run by China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN).
But in a statement on Friday, CGN said the nuclear plant had “decided to shut down Reactor No. 1 for maintenance, in order to find the cause of the damage affecting the fuel and to replace the damaged fuel”.
While there had been a small amount of fuel damage, it was within the allowable range and the reactor could have continued to operate safely, CGN said, adding that the decision was taken following “full communication between Chinese and French technicians”.
Both CGN and EDF, which holds a 30 per cent stake in the joint venture, had sought to play down the severity of the problem after CNN reported in June that there was a risk of a radiation leak.
EDF said last week that it would have shut down the novel European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) if the facility had been in France “to accurately assess the situation in progress and stop its development”, although it said the decision was beyond its control.
Taishan is the first nuclear plant in the world to operate an EPR, a Franco-German technology that for two decades has been beset by delays and cost overruns. The technology, which first began operating at Taishan, west of Hong Kong, in December 2018, has been designed to enhance power and safety.
CGN and EDF are also collaborating on an EPR nuclear plant in the UK, under construction at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
EDF said on Friday that it was taking note of CGN’s decision and that the company “remains mobilised to provide expertise in the shutting down of the reactor”.
The French company said last week that it was unable to provide an estimate of how long it would take to resolve the problem at the reactor, and said it depended on the results of the analysis.
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The French nuclear operator said last month that a build-up of noble, or inert, gases in the Taishan reactor’s primary water circuit seemed to have occurred because of issues with the casing around some fuel rods. The company has said that there is no danger of a leak from the facility and that the build-up of noble gases had been contained.
CNN reported last month that Framatome, an EDF unit, had informed the US government of a potential “imminent radiological threat to the [Taishan] site and to the public”, citing unspecified documents.
The network said that Joe Biden’s National Security Council was looking into the incident but that it did not believe it was yet at a “crisis level”.
Nuclear power, which accounts for about 5 per cent of total power generation in China, is at the heart of President Xi Jinping’s plans to tackle global warming, in which he has set out to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2060.