The French power company that co-owns a nuclear plant in China has said they would shut it down if it was up to them, because of damage to its fuel rods.
However, the decision to close the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant, located in the southern province of Guangdong, is ultimately up to its Chinese operator.
The spokesperson for Electricite de France (EDF) said while it was “not an emergency situation” at the plant, it was a “serious situation that is evolving.”
If the reactor was in France, the company would have shut it down already due to “the procedures and practices in terms of operating nuclear power plants in France,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson did not directly call on China to halt operations at the plant, noting it was a decision for its Chinese partner and majority shareholder in the plant, the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN).
In June, the French company Framatome, a subsidiary of Electricite de France that supports operations at Taishan, warned of an “imminent radiological threat” at the plant, prompting the United States government to investigate the possibility of a leak.
The company had also accused the Chinese safety authority of raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the plant in order to avoid having to shut it down, according to a letter from Framatome to the US Department of Energy.
Chinese authorities have denied any danger at the plant, saying there was “no abnormality in the radiation environment” and the safety of the plant was “guaranteed.”
Authorities declined to answer follow-up questions regarding Framatome’s warning to US officials.
In June, the Chinese nuclear safety administration acknowledged an increased level of radioactivity in the primary circuit in one of the two reactors due to damaged fuel rods, but said it was “completely different from a radiological leakage accident” because the “physical barriers are safe.”
China says plant ‘safe’
It also denied raising the acceptable limits of radiation, and said the levels were “still within the range of allowable, stable operations.”
The agency also previously said only five of the reactor’s more than 60,000 fuel rods were affected, adding there was no risk of “radiation leaking to the environment.”
On Thursday, the EDF spokesperson reiterated it was detecting an increase in noble gas in a reactor, and that the company had publicly clarified its position to the Chinese plant’s owner and operator, Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co.
EDF holds a 30 per cent stake in Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co, a joint venture with state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group.
“We’ve shared with them all the elements of EDF’s analysis and all the reasons why, in France, we would stop the reactor,” the spokesperson said.
“So they can take the decision that will be necessary as responsible operators.”
According to the spokesperson, EDF would have shut down the reactor in order to “avoid further degrading of the fuel rods, and carry out an investigation, and avoid further damage to the industrial facility.”
But the ultimate decision is up to Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co, which intends to carry out its own analysis, the spokesperson said.
EDF said they did not have a timeline for the operator’s decision.
Framatome declined to provide additional comment when asked about the EDF statement.