World’s first EPR nuclear reactor shuts down for examination
Published: Jul 30, 2021 11:30 PM
Photo taken on Dec 20, 2018 shows the first phase project of Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Taishan, south China's Guangdong Province.Photo:Xinhua

Photo taken on Dec 20, 2018 shows the first phase project of Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Taishan, south China's Guangdong Province.Photo:Xinhua

Chinese nuclear giant China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) said on Friday that it is shutting down the Taishan No.1 reactor, the world's first EPR third-generation technology reactor, to examine fuel rod damages and undertake maintenance.

The company has been under pressure from its French partner, which went to the media stating they would have shut down the reactor if it were in France.

"Currently, there is some minor fuel damage at the No.1 reactor, but it was still within the tolerance of technical parameters and the reactor can continue to operate smoothly," the TNPJVC [Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co] said in the statement posted on Friday.

"Out of the concerns that the No.1 reactor is the world's first ever [EPR] nuclear reactor, only came online recently, the power plant decided, upon thorough communication between Chinese and French technical staff, to shut down the reactor on the principle of safety first," read the statement. 

CGN and French nuclear operator EDF are collaborating on the Taishan third-generation nuclear power plant, which uses the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) nuclear technology. The power plant is majority owned by CGN. 

The reactor is being temporarily shut down and technical experts will begin to look for the reason causing the fuel rod damages and replace the damaged rods.

Lin Boqiang, the director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, said that now it seemed the Chinese and French had reached a compromise over the issue. 

"Despite CGN picked a time when connecting power grid is under maintenance to shut down the reactor to save loss from the shutdown, it will still likely incur some financial loss should the examination last longer, " Lin said. "The French will also lose money but it seemed they believed a shutdown is necessary here."

Lin noted that Chinese nuclear operators in CGN have maintained a high alertness for nuclear safety and he believed the issue at Taishan No.1 is minor. 

A build-up of noble gases occurred in Taishan in June and the casing around some of the fuel rods is believed to be damaged, according to media reports.   

However, the "radiochemical parameters" were still below regulatory thresholds in China.

The company added that the reactor is safe and under control and noted that both the No.1 and No.2 reactor at Taishan had an unmarked safety record since in regard to nuclear and environmental safety. 

The company said it will inform the public on any significant developments. 

The Taishan Nuclear Power plant , in South China's Guangdong Province, currently consists of two 1,750-megawatt EPR reactors that were jointly invested, constructed and operated by CGN and the EDF Group. Reactor No.1 had entered into commercial operation in December 2018, while reactor No.2 started commercial operation in September 2019.

Global Times