A reactor at a southern Chinese nuclear power plant has been shut down because it is damaged, the operator said on Friday, but insisted there were no major safety concerns.
Chinese officials last month blamed minor fuel rod damage for a build-up of radioactive gases at the Taishan plant in Guangdong province, describing it as a “common phenomenon” with no cause for concern.
French nuclear company Framatome, which helps operate the plant, last month reported a “performance issue” that prompted the US government to examine the possibility of a leak.
“After long conversations between French and Chinese technical staff, the Taishan nuclear power plant (…) has decided to shut down Unit 1 for maintenance,” the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) said on Friday in an online statement. .
The company added that a “small amount of fuel damage” had occurred.
CGN said the plant’s two reactors have “maintained safe and stable operations throughout” and that the failed unit is “completely under control”.
Engineers will now “find the cause of the fuel damage and replace the damaged fuel,” the statement added.
There are more than 60,000 fuel rods in the reactor and the proportion of damaged rods is “less than 0.01%,” China’s environment ministry and nuclear regulator said previously.
They called the damage “inevitable” due to factors such as the manufacturing and transportation of the fuel.
French energy giant EDF – the majority owner of Framatome – has also previously blamed the build-up of radioactive gases on the deterioration of the coating of some uranium fuel rods.
EDF said it was first informed of the fuel rod problem in October, but did not learn of the gas build-up until mid-June.
Official environmental monitoring data shows a slight increase in radiation near Taishan compared to other nuclear power plants in China, but experts say it remains within the normal range of environmental radiation levels in Guangdong.
– ‘Constantly monitored’ –
The shutdown follows a statement by the French company last week that it would have shut down a nuclear reactor in France if it had suffered problems similar to those reported at the Taishan plant.
“On the basis of the analyzes, EDF’s operating procedures for its French power plant would have led it to shut down the reactor in order to fully understand the problem and stop its development,” the company said in a statement.
However, they noted that the situation was “not urgent”.
The levels of radioactivity in the water of the reactor primary circuit “remain below the levels of the regulator in place for Taishan, which comply with international standards,” they said.
But based on past data provided by Chinese officials, the deterioration in the structural integrity of some fuel rods “appears to be continuing and is being monitored continuously,” the company added.
The problem is the latest blow to the design of the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), which is used to build power plants in France, Britain and Finland which have accumulated delays and billions of euros in overruns. costs.
© 2021 AFP