“It’s almost stepping on the accelerator” in a car, he says.
This is not a new problem in nuclear reactors, which sometimes occurs if a fuel rod has a crack. It is usually treated by removing the fuel rods from the reactor and allowing the xenon isotope to gradually dissipate over a few days by radioactive decay.
The other option is to continue to operate the reactor and to vent the traces of xenon gas from the reactor to the atmosphere. Regulators around the world give each reactor a small annual allowance for radioactive releases. Ventilation can allow the reactor to continue operating, but can trigger regulatory reviews.
Several details of the CNN report, which cited anonymous sources, could not be verified. CNN also reported that Framatome said Chinese authorities have increased the acceptable limits for radiation emissions around the plant to avoid having to shut it down. The province is already suffering from power shortages.
Michael Friedlander, a former operator of three nuclear power plants in the United States, said many nuclear companies around the world continue to operate with fuel rod leaks and occasional xenon gas venting. But that ended in the West in the 1990s as utilities sought to minimize even traces of radiation, in part to protect their own workers.
“Global best practice is to shut down and replace leaking fuel rods as soon as possible,” he said. “It would normally happen well, well, long before you approach a regulatory limit. “
It appeared that the reactor had released gas in the past. The Hong Kong government, which remains in close contact with the management of neighboring reactors, said on April 8 that there had been an incident three days earlier with the exhaust gas system of the same reactor. The incident resulted in a tiny release of a gas, but details of that gas were not disclosed.
However, the release was only 0.00044% of the power plant’s annual discharge limit for this gas, the Hong Kong government said.