Another delay to Daya Bay start

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 December, 1993, 12:00am

THE official opening of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant has again been delayed.

According to original plans, the opening of China's biggest nuclear power plant - 50 kilometres from Hong Kong - was scheduled for mid-December, but problems with its non-atomic operating system saw the official start-up postponed to early January.

Despite these problems now being solved, the senior technical adviser with the Hong Kong Nuclear Investment Company, Dr Jacques Pretti, last night confirmed the plant would not officially open until the first week of February at the earliest.

Radio reports quoted unnamed sources as claiming February 5 had been chosen as the date for the plant's opening ceremony. But Dr Pretti said he was sure no firm date had been set.

''We are now about half-way through a 700-hour long demonstration run which is conducted at a power output of between 80 and 100 per cent,'' he said.

Dr Pretti said that if everything continued to run smoothly he expected the demonstration run would be finished in the first week of January, enabling commercial operation to then start.

''However the timing of the official opening is not a technical question but a political one and it is up to the Chinese to announce a fixed date, which at this stage appears likely to be early February,'' he said.

''We [the technicians] are all anxious to find out the exact date for the official opening ceremony and hopefully the relevant Chinese authorities will announce a set date by the end of December.'' Despite delays to the official start, Dr Pretti stressed it was still possible that Daya Bay's commercial operation could start before the opening ceremony.

''The opening ceremony and the ability to begin commercial operations are two completely separate milestones with one depending on politics and the other on technical readiness,'' he said.

''It is even possible the Chinese might not want to have an official ceremony until the Unit 2 reactor was ready, which won't be until mid-1994.'' The Daya Bay plant features two 900-megawatt reactors with only the first reactor scheduled to begin full operation in the coming weeks.

Earlier problems which caused the original mid-December start date to be extended included leaking pipes and condenser tubes in the conventional non-nuclear section of the plant.