EDF: Taishan’s “evolving” fuel failure would merit a shutdown and assessment in France

July 23, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Taishan nuclear power plant. (Photo: EDF Energy)

If Taishan-1 were operating in France, Électricité de France would shut down the reactor in order to assess the situation in progress and stop its development, according to a July 22 press release from EDF. The 1,660-MWe French-designed EPR—the recent subject of sensational press coverage of fuel rod failures—operates in China’s Guangdong Province.

While EDF owns 30 percent of plant operator Taishan Nuclear Power JVC (TNPJVC), majority control lies with China General Nuclear Power Company. EDF’s press release was issued followed a meeting of the board of directors of TNPJVC at which EDF “explained its position on Taishan's No. 1 reactor following the analysis of the data provided by the operator.” EDF held an ordinary meeting of its own shareholders on the same day.

Results of analysis: After the detection of unsealed fuel assembly rods in the plant, EDF analyzed the available data, including data relating to the chemical composition of water in the primary circuit. It is that analysis that informed EDF’s press release.

“According to the data available to EDF, the radiochemical parameters of the primary circuit water remain below the regulatory thresholds in force at the Taishan plant, thresholds which are consistent with international practices,” the statement said. “Analysis of the data available to EDF on fuel rod loss of sealing indicates that the situation is evolving; as such, it is being continuously monitored by the operator.”

EDF concluded, “On the basis of the analyses carried out, EDF’s operating procedures for the French nuclear fleet would lead EDF, in France, to shut down the reactor in order to accurately assess the situation in progress and stop its development. In Taishan, the corresponding decisions belong to TNPJVC.”

Background: Operators at Taishan—the first Framatome EPR to be commissioned—detected an increase of fission product gases in the primary coolant circuit after the reactor’s first refueling outage in October 2020 and determined that the cladding on about five of the more than 60,000 fuel rods in the reactor had been breached. Work by EDF subsidiary Framatome to resolve the issue came to the attention of a CNN reporter through a memo sent to the U.S. Department of Energy on June 8. According to an article published on June 14 by CNN, the memo warned of an “imminent radiological threat” at the Taishan plant and included a claim that the Chinese safety authority was raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the plant to avoid shutting it down. The resulting media attention—and the reticence of the parties involved to provide detailed information—fueled three days of public speculation.

Nuclear News will continue to monitor the situation.

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