China: Radiation levels normal around nuclear plants following reported reactor leak

China: Radiation levels normal around nuclear plants following reported reactor leak
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China on Tuesday said that radiation levels around the Taishan nuclear plant in Guangdong were normal after reports earlier in the week of one of the plant’s reactors leaking.

Reuters reported that the French utility EDF, which part-owns the nuclear project, said on Monday that it was looking into reports of irregular levels of radioactive gas that leaked from the plant.

Framatome, the EDF unit that designed Taishan’s reactors, reportedly warned U.S. officials of an “imminent radiological threat” after the leak at the plant, according to U.S. officials and documents obtained by CNN.

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Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, however, announced at a news briefing that the plant was in line with all requirements and that there were no indications of irregularities, according to Reuters.

"So far China's nuclear power plants have maintained a good operating record, with no incidents affecting the environment and public health," Zhao said, according to the wire service.

Framatome echoed this sentiment on Monday, writing in a statement that "According to the data available, the plant is operating within the safety parameters."

EDF on Monday said fuel rods supplied by Framatome could have sparked the problem at the plant, according to Reuters.

A former official from the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, however, said the leak observed at the Taishan plant saw concentrations that are “much higher,” adding that the situation is “unusual.”

“Under normal operating conditions it is true some gases like krypton and xenon will escape and be detected but in this case the concentrations are much higher, so something is happening,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, according to Reuters.

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“Once radioactive gas is leaking to the environment it is a serious issue. It could get worse. I think there could be problems with the fuel. It is unusual,” Suzuki added.

The statement from Zhao comes after U.S. officials have reportedly been investigating Framatome’s claims of a leak for the past week, according to CNN.

EDF said a buildup of krypton and xenon had an impact on the primary circuit of Taishan Unit 1, but noted that it was a “known phenomenon, studied and provided for in the reactor operating procedures,” according to Reuters.

Additionally, CGN, which owns a majority stake in the nuclear project, said operations at the plant were in line with safety rules, according to Reuters.

The wire service reported that levels in the area remained normal on Monday, citing real-time data from China's National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA).

CNN reported that Framatome’s warning included a claim that the NNSA was increasing what the acceptable radiation limits were outside the Taishan plant in an effort to evade having to shut it down.

Updated at 9:44 a.m.