Beijing begins to lift the veil on the incident revealed Monday by the CNN channel, with a possible radioactive leak in the Taishan nuclear power plant in southern China.
This power station is the only one to have EDF EPR reactors that have entered service in the world.
Until now, Beijing had put the risks into perspective and explained that the levels of radioactivity around the plant were normal. This time, the Chinese Ministry of the Environment and the Nuclear Safety Authority gave the first technical explanations. Five damaged fuel rods caused a build-up of radioactive gases at the Taishan nuclear power plant.
A phenomenon described as "current" by the authorities, due to "uncontrollable factors" during the manufacturing process, transport or installation in the plant.
Fuel rods (or “rods”) contain uranium pellets and provide energy in the core of a nuclear reactor.
According to the authorities, the increase in radioactivity remained "within the regulatory range" and "there is no radioactive leakage into the environment," the statement said.
Already problems with the EPR
EDF, which is a 30% shareholder in the Taishan plant alongside the Chinese group CGN, reported on Monday the presence of "rare gases" in the primary circuit of the first reactor. In principle, the procedure provides for these gases to be collected and treated in order to remove the radioactivity, before being released into the air. However, this EPR incident is a new blow for EDF which hopes for new projects abroad for its reactor.
If this technology, designed to offer improved power and safety, is presented as the flagship of the French nuclear industry, it has experienced major setbacks for many years.
The setbacks and budgetary slippages accumulated on the first EPR project, launched in 2005 in Olkiluoto (Finland) on behalf of the electrician TVO.
And it is more than ten years late that electricity production should finally start in early 2022.
The second EPR, under construction since 2007 in Flamanville (Manche) in France, has also had many setbacks, due in particular to anomalies discovered in the composition of the steel of the tank cover and bottom.