EDF says informed of build-up of inert gases at Chinese nuclear facility

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SINGAPORE — French power group EDF said on Monday it had been informed of a build-up of inert gases at its nuclear power station in China, and had called for a meeting with its Chinese partner to review data on the plant.

CNN reported on Monday that the U.S. government had spent the past week assessing a report of a leak at the Taishan power plant in Guangdong province run by a joint venture between EDF and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN).

The U.S. news network reported that Framatome, the EDF unit which designed the reactor at the plant and remains involved in its operations, had warned of an “imminent radiological threat.”

EDF said the build-up of noble gases, which it said had affected the primary circuit of reactor no 1 of the Taishan plant, was a “known phenomenon, studied and provided for in the reactor operating procedures.”

State-run CGN, the majority owner of the joint venture, said operations at the nuclear power station met safety rules and the surrounding environment is safe.

“Regular monitoring data shows the Taishan station and its surrounding environment meet normal parameters,” it said in a statement on its website late on Sunday.

EDF said it had called an extraordinary meeting of joint venture TNPJVC’s board of directors “to present all the data and the necessary decisions.” TNPJVC is 70% owned by CGN and 30% by EDF.

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Framatome and France’s nuclear watchdog ASN had no immediate comment.

The Taishan reactor is the first French-designed so-called third generation “Evolutionary Power Reactor” (EPR) of its type to become operational.

The technology is also being deployed in France, Finland and at the China-invested Hinkley Point C project in Britain.

The power from the plant serves the Guangzhou and Shenzhen areas, Guangdong province’s major manufacturing hubs, which have faced power shortages in recent weeks due to hot weather and lower than normal hydropower supplies from neighboring Yunnan province.

CNN said the warning by Framatome included an accusation that the Chinese safety authority was raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the Taishan plant to avoid having to shut it down.

A Reuters call for comment to the National Nuclear Safety Administration went unanswered during a public holiday.

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu in Singapore and Benjamin Mallet and Sarah White in Paris; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jan Harvey)

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