In southern China, an incident on an EPR nuclear reactor at the Taishan power plant worried experts earlier this week. On Wednesday June 16, Chinese authorities admitted that a minor incident had occurred there, while minimizing the risks. A small number of damaged fuel rods is causing a buildup of radioactive gases in the nuclear power plant, Beijing said.
The American television channel CNN had reported on Monday a possible “Leak” in this plant, which has the only EPR reactors to have entered service in the world. This technology, designed to offer improved power and safety, is presented as the flagship of the French nuclear industry and a showcase for Electrcité de France (EDF). Beijing had until then put the risks into perspective and only explained that the levels of radioactivity around the plant were not “Abnormal”.
A “common” phenomenon, according to the authorities
On Wednesday, the Chinese environment ministry and the Nuclear Safety Authority gave the first technical explanations. In a joint statement, they acknowledged that there had been an increase in radioactivity inside one of the reactors caused “By about five damaged fuel rods”. A phenomenon described as “Current” by the authorities, due to “Uncontrollable factors” during the manufacturing, transport or installation process in the plant.
The fuel rods (or « crayons ») contain uranium pellets and provide energy in the core of a nuclear reactor. The increase in radioactivity in the power plant is “Within the regulatory range” and “There is no radioactive leak into the environment”, also specifies the press release.
EPR technology has suffered many setbacks in recent years. The second EPR, under construction since 2007 in Flamanville (Manche) in France, itself has accumulated setbacks, due, in particular, to anomalies discovered in the composition of the steel of the cover and the bottom of the tank.