Zero-risk incident at Guangdong's Ling Ao nuclear plant, but greens seek the cause

While issues at Guangdong reactor have no safety implications, activists wants to know their cause

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 3:47am

In its third operational problem this year, a Guangdong nuclear reactor's radiation sensors had been failing to pass on information to the plant's control room properly, the plant's operator revealed yesterday.

While the difficulties at the Ling Ao complex have all ranked at Level 0 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, meaning they were "deviations" with no safety implications, the news has added to Hong Kong environmentalists' concerns about nuclear plants close to the city.

Ling Ao is about 50 kilometres north of urban Hong Kong and lies about a kilometre from the Daya Bay nuclear plant, which supplies a quarter of Hong Kong's electricity.

A spokesman for Hong Kong's Security Bureau said a routine inspection by the plant's operator had found the radiation detection system in reactor No4 was not transmitting readings in real time to the control room. The problem, which has since been fixed, was reported on the operator's website yesterday. As the system had a back-up, there were no safety problems, the spokesman said.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Prentice Koo Wai-muk acknowledged nothing had occurred to compromise safety, but was concerned that the plant's bosses and the Security Bureau had not revealed what caused them. "That means we would not know whether it was human errors or errors in the system designs, and we could not prevent them from happening again," he said.

The first incident was on January 29, when data relating to the fuel system at reactor No3 was not updated in line with regulations. On May 28 staff noted that the temperature of water for the emergency generator had not been recorded.

Concern about the Daya Bay complex has increased since an earthquake and tsunami in Japan sparked a disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant last year.

Hong Kong subsequently reviewed its emergency planning and held a two-day nuclear safety drill in April. Daya Bay Nuclear Power Operations and Management, which also runs Ling Ao, said it was improving safety measures after the disaster.