Amid fears of leak, China nuclear plant operator says reactor shut down for ‘maintenance’
The Chinese government had initially downplayed the damage to fuel rods saying it was a “common phenomenon.”
Weeks after the Chinese government admitted damage to fuel rods at a nuclear power plant, the operator said one of its reactors has been shut down for “maintenance”. An increase in radiation inside Unit 1 reactor of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant had sparked fears of a leak, according to a CNN report.
"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 Taishan Nuclear Power Plant, owned by CGN and Electricite de France (EDF), began commercial operation in December 2018. EDF had warned of an “imminent radiological threat” after damage to fuel rods, reported CNN citing a letter to the US department of energy.
In the letter, the French power company reportedly accused the Chinese safety authority of raising the acceptable level of radiation outside the power plant, a report denied by the Chinese government. While the ministry of ecology and environment admitted the power plant had five broken fuel rods, it said no radioactivity leaked.
The ministry claimed on its social media account that the radiation was contained by barriers that functioned as planned. “There is no problem of radioactive leakage to the environment,” the ministry statement said. It also downplayed the damage saying it was a “common phenomenon” and the damaged fuel rods accounted for “less than 0.01 percent" of the 60,000 fuel rods in the reactor.
After China’s admission of minor damage to the plant, a spokesperson for EDF told CNN that it was a "serious situation that is evolving." The spokesperson said that EDF would have shut down the reactor if it was in France due to "the procedures and practices in terms of operating nuclear power plants in France," reported CNN.
(With inputs from agencies)