China denies report of nuclear accident

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 January, 2012, 12:00am


China has denied a report that the country's first fast-neutron reactor, near Beijing, had to shut down after an accident late last year.

Wan Gang, the director of the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) - which built the experimental fourth-generation nuclear reactor - yesterday described a Japanese media report about the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) as 'extremely inconsistent with the facts', internet-based China Network Television reported.

On Wednesday, Tokyo's Sankei Shimbun cited a report from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency as saying that CEFR, which began operating in a military facility area outside Beijing in July, had stopped producing electricity since October after an accident. The newspaper said the accident sparked concerns from South Korean and Japanese authorities about radiation leaks because Beijing failed to release details.

Sankei Shimbun said safety management at CEFR was 'very low', with a lack of anti-leakage devices and having beds in the master control room for staff to take rests.

But Wan said CEFR - the pilot plant for China's fourth generation of nuclear reactors - was not on a commercial scale, and had been cooled since reaching a project goal in July.

According to World Nuclear News, an online news service supported by the World Nuclear Association, CEFR was connected to the electricity grid a year after achieving criticality - the experimental goal mentioned by Wan.

Wan told China Network Television: 'CEFR hasn't been operating since July last year, so reports by the Japanese media that an 'accident occurred in autumn last year that was covered up by the Chinese government' are extremely inconsistent with the facts.'

Wan denied there were beds in the control room, saying there were five groups taking three shifts around the clock to watch even though it had been cooled down in July.

He said the reactor had strict, multiple safety technologies to prevent a radiation leak.

Cao Shudong, assistant president of the Beijing-based China National Nuclear Corporation, said that CEFR was a demonstration reactor, which would only be operated for experimental projects. 'When it finishes an experimental project, it will stop, and it is impossible for any accident to occur because the safety standard of the fourth-generation reactor is very reliable and stable,' he said.

'Our sodium-cooled, pool-type fast reactor has been constructed with some Russian assistance at the CIEA, and we have now successfully turned it into China's first fourth-generation nuclear reactor after a lot of innovation and improved research and development.'

The successful starting-up of CEFR marked a breakthrough in China's fourth-generation nuclear technology, and made the country the eighth in the world to have such a reactor.