Operator says China nuclear plant facing 'performance issue'

FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2013, file photo, then British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, left, chats with Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co. Ltd. General Manager Guo Liming as he inspects a nuclear reactor under construction at the nuclear power plant in Taishan, southeastern China's Guangdong province. The French joint operator of the Chinese nuclear plant near Hong Kong said Monday it is dealing with a performance issue but is currently operating within safety limits, following a report of a potential radioactive leak. (AP Photo/Bobby Yip, Pool, File) (Bobby Yip)

HONG KONG – The French joint operator of a Chinese nuclear plant near Hong Kong said Monday that the plant is dealing with a “performance issue” but is currently operating within safety limits, following a report of a potential radioactive leak.

The Taishan Nuclear Power Plant is jointly owned by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and French multinational electric utility Électricité de France, the main owner of Framotome, which helps operate the plant.

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“Framatome is supporting resolution of a performance issue with the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province, China,” Framatome said in a short statement Monday.

“According to the data available, the plant is operating within the safety parameters,” it said. “Our team is working with relevant experts to assess the situation and propose solutions to address any potential issue.”

Radiation levels in Hong Kong, 135 kilometers (85 miles) from the Taishan plant, were normal on Monday, according to the Hong Kong Observatory, which monitors radiation around the city.

CNN reported Monday that Framotome had written to the U.S. Department of Energy warning of an “imminent radiological threat” and accusing Chinese authorities of raising acceptable limits for radiation outside the plant to avoid having to shut it down. CNN said U.S. officials believed the current situation at the plant did not present a severe safety threat.

Électricité de France said in a statement Monday that it had been informed of the increase in concentration of “certain rare gases” in the primary circuit of reactor No. 1 at the Taishan plant.

“The presence of certain rare gases in the primary circuit is a known phenomenon, studied and foreseen by the operating procedures of the reactors,” it said.

The utility said it is providing its expertise and has requested that the joint venture company that runs the plant hold a meeting of its board of directors so that management “presents all the data and the necessary decisions.”

Chinese authorities in Beijing and Guangdong did not immediately respond to attempts to seek comment on Monday, a public holiday.

The plant issued a statement on Sunday saying “At present, continuous monitoring of environmental data shows that the environmental indicators of Taishan Nuclear Power Plant and its surroundings are normal.”

It did not refer to any problems, and said “All operating indicators of the two units have met the requirements of nuclear safety regulations and power plant technical specifications.”

The United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, told The Associated Press that it was aware of the media reports and was in contact with its counterpart in China.

“At this stage, the agency has no indication that a radiological incident occurred,” the Vienna-based IAEA said in a written response to questions.

The agency said it would share more information when it became available.

The two reactors entered commercial operation in December 2018 and September 2019, the local city government said on its website. They are the first of a new type called European Pressurized Reactors to become operational in the world. Construction began earlier on two other EPRs in Finland and France, but they continue to face costly delays.


Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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