The radiation leak threat comes at a time when China is being asked to come clean on whether the pandemic causing Covid-19 virus, which has killed more than three million people worldwide, was the result of a lab-leak in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province
A French nuclear design company has raised an alarm about nuclear radiation risk from its partner atomic power plant in China.
CNN is reporting that in a memo to the US energy department, Framatome, the French company which participates in running two Chinese reactors, has sought assistance in advance from the Americans, in view of the possible radiation leak. Taishan 1 and Taishan 2, the two reactors of 1750 megawatts each, are located in China’s heavily populated Guangdong province, with Guangzhou, a global industrial and trade hub, as its capital. Guangdong has a high-speed rail link with Hong Kong, a major pillar of international finance and trade.
The project is owned by Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company Limited (TNPC), which is 70% owned by China General Nuclear Power Group and 30% by Électricité de France S.A.
The radiation leak threat comes at a time when China is being asked to come clean on whether the pandemic causing Covid-19 virus, which has killed more than three million people worldwide, was the result of a lab-leak in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province.
According to CNN, Framatome reached out to the US Department of Energy late last month informing them of a potential issue at the Chinese nuclear plant.
The company, mainly owned by the French utility company EDF, then submitted an operational safety assistance request on June 3. EDF formally asked for a waiver from the US Department of Energy that would allow them to address an urgent safety matter. It warned US officials American officials that the nuclear reactor is leaking fission gas.
"The situation is an imminent radiological threat to the site and to the public and Framatome urgently requests permission to transfer technical data and assistance as may be necessary to return the plant to normal operation," read the June 8 memo from the company's subject matter expert to the Energy Department, says the CNN report.
The story points out that based on the French inputs, US officials spent the past week to assess the report of a possible leak. It adds, citing its source that the Biden administration believes that the facility is not yet at a "crisis level".
The assessments lead to a major question: Should the impacted atomic power unit or plant be shut down because of the radiological risk that it potentially presents?
The EDF, on its part, said on Monday that higher levels of radiation were caused by a "degradation of the housing of the fuel rods," according to the CNN report.
The spokesperson pointed out that radioactivity levels observed at the plant were below the threshold stipulated by the Chinese authorities. It added that the affected housings are the first of three containment barriers between the rods and the atmosphere.
But the spokesperson stressed that without a full analysis, it is too early to confirm whether a complete shutdown of the reactor is required.
The Chinese have so far asserted that a plant shutdown is not required. The Taishan Nuclear Power Plant published a statement on its website Sunday night which spotlighted that the environmental readings for both the plant and its surrounding area were "normal."
The two nuclear reactors in Taishan are both operational, the statement said, adding that Unit 2 had recently completed an "overhaul" and "successfully connected to the grid on June 10, 2021."
"Since it was put into commercial operation, the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant has strictly controlled the operation of the units in accordance with operating licence documents and technical procedures. All operating indicators of the two units have met the requirements of nuclear safety regulations and power plant technical specifications," the statement observed.