Chinese authorities have decided to shut down a nuclear power plant in the southern area of Taishan “for maintenance” just one week after its French operator EDF publicly recommended its closure due to a fuel rod problem
Last month, China's General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN) had ruled out any danger of a possible leak at the Taishan power station, but Friday said in a statement that they 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 the fuel damage was still within the allowable range and the reactor could have continued to operate safely, CGN chose to make a call on the side of safety following “full communication between Chinese and French technicians.”
Both CGN and EDF 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.” EDF holds a 30% stake in the joint venture.
Taishan became in December 2018 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. CGN and EDF are also collaborating on an EPR nuclear plant in the UK, under construction at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
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, but that there was no danger of a leak from the facility and that the build-up of noble gases had been contained.
CNN had 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,” but the events at the time posed no security risk according to the US National Security Council.
Nuclear power accounts for about 5% of total power generation in China.