The Taishan plant, a joint venture between the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) and Électricité de France (EDF), a French utility, came under scrutiny after CNN reported Monday that U.S. officials had spent the past week assessing a warning from its French partner that Chinese officials were raising the allowed limits of radiation outside the plant to avoid having to shut the facility.
"Recently there have been some agencies and media organizations paying attention to and inquiring into the situation at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant," CGN, the operator of the plant, said in a statement on its website Sunday evening, before the CNN report was published.
CGN said the first of its two EPR (Evolutionary Power Reactor) nuclear reactors was operating normally while the second had completed a planned overhaul, the facility's first since operations began, and was connected to the power grid on June 10. The plant said the overhaul had met all targets in "safety, security, quality and project time."
"All operating indicators of the two units have met the requirements of nuclear safety regulations and technical requirements for power plants," it said. CGN said it had not detected unusual amounts of radiation inside or outside the plant, adding "environmental indicators at present are within their normal range for both the Taishan plant and its surrounding environment."
According to the CNN report, Framatome, a supplier of nuclear systems that is owned by Électricité de France, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy to obtain a waiver to share U.S. technical assistance with the Taishan plant, claiming radiation limits had been raised above French safety standards. Citing unnamed individuals within the Biden administration, the report said U.S. officials do not believe the plant is at "crisis level."
Framatome said in a statement to Agence France-Presse that it was "supporting resolution of a performance issue" at the Taishan plant. "According to the data available, the plant is operating within the safety parameters," the company said.
EDF told Reuters it had called a meeting with its partner, CGN. EDF said it had been informed of a buildup of inert gases that had affected the primary circuit of reactor No. 1 of the plant. It said the build up of inert gases like argon, helium or neon was a "known phenomenon, studied and provided for in the reactor operating procedures."
The Taishan plant, which sits about 84 miles west of Hong Kong in the densely populated southern province of Guangdong, was beset with delays for years after plans for construction were released. Its first reactor went online in December 2018 while the second went into operation in September 2019, the power plant said in its statement on Sunday.
CNN reported that Framatome warned U.S. officials in early June that the plant was leaking fission gas. According to a memo seen by CNN, the plant operator is meant to comply with regulatory limits to "ensure off-site dose limits are maintained" to "not cause undue harm to the surrounding population."
China's National Nuclear Security Administration instead revised the limit to more than double its initial release, increasing "off-site risk to the public and on-site workers," the memo said, according to CNN. The safety authority was not immediately available to comment because of a public holiday in China on Monday.
In China, the allegations of a leak received little attention, with no state media outlets reporting the issue and almost no discussion on social media platforms. On Weibo, Wang Yigang, member of the Institute of Industrial Economics, affiliated with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the accusations were the doing of the "American imperialism hyping up opposition to nuclear power and forcing China to develop wind and solar power only."
Published : June 15, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Lily Kuo