Chinese nuclear power plant shut down over cracked fuel rods
A nuclear power plant in China owned by companies developing new power plants in the UK was shut down for "maintenance" after cracks were found in fuel rods.
China General Nuclear (CGN) said the reactor at the Taishan plant, about 130 kilometers west of Hong Kong, is safe and under control, and the damage is "within the allowable range".
It comes more than a month after fuel rod damage at the facility was first made public after a request for U.S. officials to share technical assistance leaked to CNN.
The facility is a joint venture between CGN, which owns a 70 percent stake, and its French partner EDF, which owns the rest.
CGN is a junior partner of EDF at the Hinkley Point C power plant under development in Somerset. It's slated to go live by mid-2026 and supply around 7 percent of UK electricity.
They are also planning a second facility, Sizewell C in Suffolk, although it emerged this week that the government is looking at ways to curb China's involvement in post-Hinkley projects.
Both Hinkley Point C and Sizewell will use the European Pressurized Reactor technology used at Taishan, the first reactor in the world based on this technology.
In a statement in Chinese on its website, CGN said, “A small amount of fuel damage occurred during the operation of Unit 1, but it is still within the allowable range of the technical specifications, and the unit can continue to operate stably.
“Taishan Nuclear Power Plant insists that safety is paramount and that conservative decisions are made in accordance with nuclear safety regulations and the operating procedures of the nuclear power plant.
“Combined with the start of construction of the power grid ... we decided at this point in time to decommission for maintenance work. Currently, the facility is evacuated to a shutdown state in accordance with operational regulations and the reactor is safe and controllable. "
It is believed that radioactivity was detected in the cooling liquid around the rods within a sealed part of the facility.
EDF and CGN are also building Hinkley Point C in Somerset
David Fishman of consulting firm Lantau Group said last month, "Failed fuel or cracked fuel is a fairly normal and common - undesirably certainly - but not uncommon phenomenon in the nuclear fuel industry."
EDF said last week that Taishan in France has been shut down to investigate fuel rod issues.
"EDF's operating procedures for the French nuclear fleet would result in EDF shutting down the reactor in France in order to accurately assess the current situation and stop its development," it said.
Government efforts to curb CGN's work on Sizewell C come amid growing concerns over China's involvement in critical national infrastructure projects.
CGN has a 20 percent stake in Sizewell C with the option to participate in the construction phase. It also plans to build its own new facility in Bradwell, Essex, and its reactor is under regulatory appraisal.
However, there are concerns that curtailing work on Sizewell could disrupt its stake in Hinkley Point C, where work is well advanced.
His involvement in all three projects is part of an agreement signed with the UK government in 2015 and trying to reopen one could affect the others.
EDF is in negotiations with the government over Sizewell C. A law is likely to be introduced to allow developers to reimburse expenses from household bills.
EDF was contacted for comment.
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