China nuclear reactor: French partner calls meeting over leak

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French energy giant EDF said on Monday that it has called a meeting with its Chinese partner after learning of a build-up of noble gasses in one of the Taishan nuclear power plant’s reactors.

The French minority owner of a nuclear plant in China said on Monday that it has been informed of a build-up of noble gases in one of the power station’s reactors and has called a meeting with its Chinese partner to discuss it.

French energy giant EDF owns 30 percent of the joint venture that owns and operates Taishan nuclear power plant in Guangdong province north of Hong Kong. State-owned China General Nuclear Power Corp owns the other 70 percent.

“EDF has been informed of the increase in the concentration of certain noble gases in the primary circuit of reactor n°1 [number one] of the Taishan nuclear power plant,” the company said in a statement on its website. “The presence of certain noble gases in the primary circuit is a known phenomenon, studied and provided for in the reactor operating procedures.”

United States news outlet CNN on Monday, citing US officials and documents it had reviewed, reported that the US government has spent the past week assessing a report of a leak at Taishan nuclear power plant after EDF subsidiary Framatome warned of an “imminent radiological threat”. But US officials do not currently believe the situation poses a severe safety threat, said CNN.

China General Nuclear Power Crop said in a statement on Sunday that data showed “the Taishan station and its surrounding environment meet normal parameters”, according to Reuters News Agency.

But CNN reported that a letter it had seen from Framatome – which designed the reactors at Taishan and continues to help operate them – to the US Department of Energy included allegations that China was raising the acceptable limit for radiation detection outside the nuclear facility in order to avoid shutting it down.

Framatome said in a public statement on its website on Monday: “According to the data available, the plant is operating within safety parameters. Our team is working with relevant experts to assess the situation and propose solutions to address any potential issues.”

The Taishan reactor went online in 2018 and was the first French-designed third-generation so-called “Evolutionary Power Reactor” (EPR) to become operational.

The reactor builds on previous designs with the aim of using less uranium and operating more safely.

EPR reactors are also under construction in France, Finland and at the China-invested Hinkley Point C project in the United Kingdom.

Power generated by the Taishan reactors serves the Guangzhou and Shenzhen areas. Guangdong province’s major manufacturing hubs have been coping with power shortages in recent weeks due to hot weather and lower-than-normal hydropower supplies from neighbouring Yunnan province.

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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