CGN Power says Taishan nuclear reactors pose no safety risks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 May, 2016, 10:55am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2016, 5:48pm

The controlling shareholder of two nuclear reactors under construction in Taishan, about 130km from Hong Kong, has denied reports of safety risks following the temporary suspension of similar reactors being built in France.

Gao Ligang, chief executive officer at Hong Kong-listed CGN Power, which holds a 51 per cent stake in the project, said the two reactors in Taishan meet all international technology and safety standards.

“The construction progress and commercial operation of the Taishan nuclear units are all on schedule after comprehensive evaluation,” Gao said on Friday.

Speaking in Hong Kong, he said the expected timetable for commercial operation of Taishan Unit 1 and Taishan Unit 2 would be in the first half of 2017 and second half of 2017, respectively.

The Taishan nuclear power plants use third-generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) technology, the most advanced in existence. The systems integration and performance testing of third generation nuclear power generating units have yet to be verified, as no such nuclear power generating unit has been put into commercial operation in the world.

France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) last April discovered excessive carbon in the pressure vessel of an EPR plant in Flamanville, France, indicating that the vessel was too brittle and could potentially cause a radioactive leak.

Recently, overseas nuclear power generating units, including the one in France, which are similar to China’s Taishan units, have successively announced new construction schedules, according to a report from news agency FactWire.

Gao from CGN Power said that while France suspended work on the nuclear technology to renew the technical standards, it was not reasonable to measure the old units by new standards. “It doesn’t mean the old units are unsafe when new standards come out,” he added.

At least seven French engineers based at the EPR plant told FactWire that Unit 1 of the Taishan nuclear power plant had already undergone a large number of tests and the earliest it could come into service would be 2018.

However, they said the Chinese authorities had been pushing hard to “speed up” the construction so that it could come online in 2017 as originally scheduled, becoming the world’s first power plant to use third-generation nuclear technology.

Gao denied authorities had ordered construction to be speeded up, adding that the pressure vessel of the EPR plant in the Taishan units meets all technology and safety standards and that construction progress was under close scrutiny by the nation.

CGN Power chairman Zhang Shanming said the French assessment that the Taishan units won’t be ready for service until 2018 was based on the judgement from France itself, adding that China’s experience in nuclear plant engineering construction is no worse than other countries.

This article has been amended to remove the word “online” before “news” in the 7th paragraph.