CGN takes Taishan 1 offline following fuel failure

30 July 2021

China General Nuclear (CGN) announced today it is taking unit 1 of the Taishan nuclear power plant in China's Guangdong province offline to replace damaged fuel rods. Last month, an increase in the concentration of noble gases in the primary circuit of the EPR was attributed to a few damaged fuel rods.

The two EPR units at Taishan (Image: CGN)

Construction started on unit 1 of the Taishan plant in 2009, followed by unit 2 in 2010. The 1750-megawatt EPRs entered commercial operation in December 2018 and September 2019, respectively. The plant is owned by Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company Limited (TNPJVC) - a joint venture between CGN (51%), French utility EDF (30%) and the Chinese utility Guangdong Energy Group (19%).

On 16 June, China's National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) confirmed that an increase in the concentration of noble gases in the primary circuit of the Taishan 1 EPR was related to a few damaged fuel rods. The NNSA estimated that of the more than 60,000 fuel rods in the core of Taishan 1, about five probably have damage to their cladding. The core of Taishan 1 contains 241 fuel assemblies, each of them made from 265 fuel rods.

Following a meeting of TNPJVC's board of directors on 22 July, EDF said: "On the basis of the analyses carried out, EDF's operating procedures for the French nuclear fleet would lead EDF, in France, to shut down the reactor in order to accurately assess the situation in progress and stop its development. In Taishan, the corresponding decisions belong to TNPJVC."

CGN said today, "After full communication between Chinese and French technical personnel, TNPJVC insists on safety first and conservative decision-making in accordance with nuclear safety regulations and nuclear power plant operating procedures."

It added the fuel damage at Taishan 1 is "still within the allowable range of technical specifications and the unit can continue to operate stably". However, it said the reactor is being taken offline to carry out maintenance, find the cause of the fuel damage and replace the damaged fuel.

Further analysis when the reactor is shut down will determine whether all damaged fuel rods are part of a single fuel assembly or belong to different assemblies.

"As the world's first EPR reactor project, Taishan nuclear power plant units 1 and 2 have maintained safe and stable operation since they were put into operation," CGN said. "All operating indicators have met the requirements of nuclear safety regulations and power plant technical specifications, and nuclear safety and environmental safety are guaranteed."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News