© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A nuclear reactor and related facilities as part of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant to be operated by China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGN) is seen under construction on Oct.17, 2013 in Taishan, Guangdong Province. REUTERS / Bobby Yip
SINGAPORE / PARIS (Reuters) – French energy company EDF (PA 🙂 has started investigating a potential problem related to an accumulation of inert gases at its nuclear power plant in China, despite the company and its Chinese partner saying the facility is operational for sure.
CNN reported Monday that the U.S. government had spent the past week investigating a report of a leak at the Taishan power plant in Guangdong province, operated by a joint venture between EDF and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) becomes.
The US news channel reported that Framatome, the EDF company that designed the plant's reactor and is involved in its operations, had warned of an "imminent radiological threat."
EDF said the build-up of the noble gases krypton and xenon, which had affected the primary circuit of the Taishan Plant's # 1 reactor, was "a known phenomenon that has been studied and accounted for in reactor operations."
A company spokesman said this could be due to a problem with fuel rods and seals. Measurements of inert gases were below the maximums allowed in China, the spokesman said, adding it was too early to say whether the reactor needed to be shut down.
Krypton and xenon do not tend to react with other substances, but have radioactive properties and are therefore subject to constant monitoring.
EDF has requested a meeting with CGN to discuss the results, although a date has not yet been set.
State-owned CGN, the majority owner of the joint venture, said operations at the facility meet safety regulations and the surrounding area is safe.
"Regular monitoring data shows that Taishan Station and its surroundings are within normal parameters," said a statement on its website late Sunday.
Framatome said it supported efforts to resolve the situation.
"According to the data available, the system is working within the safety parameters," says a company release, and is working with experts to assess the situation.
TNPJVC, the joint venture behind the plant, is 70% owned by CGN and 30% by EDF.
France's nuclear regulatory agency ASN did not have an immediate opinion. The US State Department and Atomic Energy Agency passed inquiries to the Department of Energy, and the White House did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters.
The American Nuclear Society, a nonprofit that promotes nuclear technology, said it is monitoring the situation.
The Taishan reactor is the first Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) developed in France to go into operation. The technology is also used in France, Finland and the Hinkley Point C project in the UK.
The power from the plant supplies the Guangzhou and Shenzhen areas, the main production centers in Guangdong Province, which have faced electricity bottlenecks in recent weeks due to the hot weather and reduced hydropower supply from neighboring Yunnan Province.
CNN said the Framatome warning included an allegation that China's security agency raised acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the Taishan facility to avoid shutdowns.
A Reuters call for comments to the National Nuclear Safety Administration went unanswered over a public holiday.
Graphic: China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) says Taishan Nuclear Power Plant complies with safety rules – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/bdwpkxybjvm/TaishanPlant.png