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30.07.2021 Europe

China nuclear reactor closes for maintenance after talks with French engineers

By Jan van der Made - RFI
PETER PARKS AFP/File
LISTEN JUL 30, 2021
PETER PARKS AFP/File

A reactor at a nuclear plant in southern China was shut down for "maintenance" due to minor fuel damage, the operator said Friday. The action was taken after an increase in radioactivity levels sparked fears of a leak.

"After lengthy conversations between French and Chinese technical personnel, Taishan Nuclear Power Plant ... decided to shut down Unit 1 for maintenance," China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) said in an online statement.

The group plays down the incident, saying that "at present, a small amount of fuel damage has occurred during the operation of Unit 1 (of the Taishan plant,) but it is still within the allowable range of technical specifications, and the unit can continue to operate stably."

The idea, the statement continues, is to "carry out maintenance, find the cause of fuel damage, and replace the damaged fuel (cells.)" After shutdown and evacuation the reactor is "safe and controllable," according to the statement.

The action will take place during construction on the Western Guangdong power grid is taking place, to avoid excessive demand for electricity. 

The shutdown comes 8 days after it was formally advised by the French partner of the plant. 

Unsealed rods
On 22 July, EDF, which owns 30 percent of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant, said in a statement, that TNPJVC, the Chinese-French joint venture company that runs it, held a meeting of the Board of Directors, which mentioned " detection of unsealed assembly rods" in reactor No. 1 of the Taishan power plant.

On the basis of analysis, EDF concluded that had the plant been under full responsibility of EDF in France, it would "shut down the reactor in order to accurately assess the situation in progress and stop its development in Taishan." 

The incident hit the headlines in June, after it was first exposed by CNN. The US cable TV station reported earlier that the US government is "assessing a report of a leak at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant after the French company, Framatome (an EDF subsidary,) warned of an 'imminent radiological threat'.

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