July 29, 2021

What is happening at the Taishan nuclear power plant in China?

INCIDENT – A sealing problem has been detected within a reactor of a nuclear power plant located in southern China. EDF ensures that gas emissions into the air are “controlled” and “mastered”, as is the Chinese operator of the plant.

The first EPR reactor at the Taishan nuclear power plant in China is under surveillance on Monday, June 14 after the alert relayed by CNN of a probable radioactive leak. Thus, documents sent by Framatome, a subsidiary of EDF, to the Biden administration and revealed by the American media reported a “imminent radiological threat” and a possible “leak “ in this powerhouse in southern China. This comprises two EPR reactors, “European Pressurized Reactor”, built by EDF and the first of this generation to have been put into operation in the world, in 2018 and 2019. They are also the only ones to be in service to date, despite other parallel projects in France and Finland and the UK.

A “known phenomenon, expected” according to EDF

If Framatome wrote to the American authorities, it was to seek their authorization in order to “transfer the technical data and assistance which may be necessary to put the plant back into normal operation”, according to his letter sent on June 8. Having considered the said request last week, Washington did not consider the situation to present any “crisis level”, still according to CNN. Concretely, the possible leak would come from the primary circuit of one of these reactors, a closed circuit containing pressurized water which heats up in contact with the fuel elements. Nuclear fission produces rare gases, here xenon and krypton, which would have escaped from the primary circuit. Following the elements reported by CNN, the official reactions did not take long. At a press conference, EDF tried to reassure by explaining that these gas releases had been “in compliance with the regulatory limits defined by the Chinese safety authority”.

The French group also cracked a statement indicating that it had “been informed of the increase in the concentration of certain rare gases in the primary circuit of reactor No. 1 of the Taishan nuclear power plant” more than “the presence of certain rare gases in the primary circuit” was “a known phenomenon, studied and foreseen by the operating procedures of the reactors”. Earlier, Framatome announced to monitor “the evolution of one of the operating parameters” reactor while specifying to AFP that the plant was “in its authorized area of ​​operation and safety”. At the same time, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declared that it had “no indication that a radiological incident has occurred”.

Read also

  • Nuclear: EDF in talks to build two new EPRs in England
  • Flamanville EPR: what does the report commissioned by the government say?

For its part, the Chinese operator China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) reported environmental indicators “normal”, without making reference to a leak. Co-shareholder of the plant, EDF however requested the holding of an extraordinary board of directors. “so that the management presents all the data and the necessary decisions”.

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