Mystery nuclear ‘leak’ from Chinese power plant could spark ‘disaster’ – US raises alarm

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According to secret US intelligence reports, the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant is believed to have been leaking for at least two weeks. American agents have spent the last week monitoring the situation after a French firm, that co-owns the plant, flagged the issue to Washington.

The reports warned the situation has the potential to turn into a major disaster but it is not yet at “crisis level”.

However, the Chinese owners of the plant insisted in a report – published yesterday – that everything is “normal”.

Problems at the plant were first alerted to the US intelligence back in May by French firm Framatome, according to documents sent to the Department of Energy (DoE).

On June 3, a follow-up memo identified the issue as a “fission gas leak” and urged the DoE to share intelligence that might help solve the issue.

After reportedly receiving no response, Framatome sent another memo on June 8 asking for their message to be reviewed.

They described the problem as an “imminent radiological threat to the site”.

Framatome warned Chinese regulators increased the “safe” levels of radioactivity allowed around the plant.

This means China has been able to continue to keep the plant running instead of shutting it down in a bid to resolve the issue.

The French company claimed China had more than doubled the limit, which exceeds the current safety standards in France.

Senior figures from the US State Department met following the second memo to assess the threat.

They found there is no immediate danger but concluded the plant could turn into a major disaster.

But reassured it would be resolved without seriously endangering the public.

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Framatome confirmed today they are working to fix a “performance issue” at the site.

The French energy company EDF also released a statement saying there has been an increase in noble gases detected in the plant’s cooling system.

Noble gases are some of the byproducts of nuclear fission and may indicate there is a leak in the reactor.

EDF confirmed the presence of noble gases is “a known phenomenon, studied and provided for in the reactor operating procedures”.

The Taishan plant was opened in 2018 and was the first worldwide to operate a next-generation EPR nuclear reactor.

EPR reactors are believed to be promising advances in safety and efficiency over conventional reactors while producing less waste.

Overall, China has 47 nuclear plants with a total generation capacity of 48.75 million kilowatts, making it the third-highest country after the US and France.

Xi Jinping’s country has invested billions of dollars to develop its nuclear energy sector.

In May, Mr Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the close ties between their countries as they launched new Russian-built nuclear power plants across China.

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