KEY POINTS

  • The company said it was up to the Chinese partner to make a decision 
  • EDF said the plant would have already been shut down if it were in France
  • China had earlier said the radiation levels were normal and ruled out safety concerns

The French co-owner of Taishan Nuclear Power Plant, located in China's southern Guangdong province, has warned of a "serious situation that is evolving" in the plant that warrants its shutdown.

A month after it notified the U.S. Government about an "imminent radiological threat," Electricite de France (EDF) said Thursday that it would shut down the plant if it could, due to damage to the fuel rods. However, the EDF spokesperson said it was up to the Chinese partner to decide, reported CNN.

Had the reactor been in France, it would have already been shut down "due to the procedures and practices in terms of operating nuclear power plants in France," the report quoted EDF the spokesperson. 

The plant is co-owned by China General Nuclear Power Group, which is also the major shareholder of the plant. EDF holds only a 30 percent stake in Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co.

Though EDF had earlier said it is working to resolve a "performance issue" at a plant, the spokesperson reiterated it was detecting an increase in noble gas in a reactor. EDF has apprised its Chinese partner about the situation.

"We've shared with them all the elements of EDF's analysis and all the reasons why, in France, we would stop the reactor so that they can take the decision that will be necessary as responsible operators," the spokesperson added. 

According to EDF, it would shut down the reactor to "avoid further degrading of the fuel rods, and carry out an investigation, and avoid further damage to the industrial facility." But, the company refused to make a direct call with regard to the shutdown. 

The plant's safety issue was first highlighted a month ago when it was reported that the U.S. government is busy assessing a suspected nuclear leak. Framatome, an EDF subsidiary, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy that the nuclear reactor is leaking fission gas. 

It also accused the Chinese safety board of raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection around the plant to avoid a shutdown. This claim were shot down by the Chinese who said the radiation levels remained normal and there were no safety concerns. "There is no abnormality in the radiation levels around the nuclear power plant, and safety is guaranteed," said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

Lijian added that China's nuclear power plants have "maintained a good operating record and there have been no incidents affecting the environment and public health."

However, in June, the Chinese nuclear safety administration admitted an increased level of radioactivity in the primary circuit in one of the two reactors due to damaged fuel rods. But, they maintained it was "completely different from a radiological leakage accident" because the "physical barriers are safe." 

French energy giant EDF and the Chinese government have sought to ease concerns about a gas build-up at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant after a CNN report of a potential leak at the site French energy giant EDF and the Chinese government have sought to ease concerns about a gas build-up at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant after a CNN report of a potential leak at the site Photo: AFP / PETER PARKS