Concern at pace of nuclear development in China

China’s drive towards dramatically expanding its nuclear generation capacity has seen some of those involved express unease.

In particular, French companies involved in building reactors in the country say that communications are not what might be expected, and in the wake of the Fukushima accident, the industry itself is keen that safety is not compromised as a result.

Bloomberg reports that French state-owned Areva (Euronext: CEI) and EDF are involved in the Taishan nuclear power project, 100 miles outside Hong Kong, where construction is almost completed on a plant that will host two state-of-the-art European Pressurized Reactors.
Taishan nuclear build
The French are keen that the new generation reactor has an optimal debut in China but the communications issue has made it difficult to ensure control is maintained and the development goes smoothly.

“It’s not always easy to know what is happening at the Taishan site,” Stephane Pailler, head of international relations at France’s Autorite de Surete Nucleaire regulator, said in an interview. “We don’t have a regular relationship with the Chinese on EPR control like we have with the Finnish,” said Pailler, referring to another EPR plant under construction in Finland.

Critical tests will begin on the most advanced of the 1650 MW Taishan EPRs before start-up in 2015.

Meanwhile Philippe Jamet, one of the regulator’s five governing commissioners, testified before the French Parliament in February that “unfortunately, collaboration isn’t at a level we would wish it to be” with China. Jamet said: “One of the explanations for the difficulties in our relations is that the Chinese safety authorities lack means. They are overwhelmed.”

The following month, EDF’s internal safety inspector Jean Tandonnet published his annual report to the utility’s chief executive that detailed a mid-2013 visit to the Taishan building site. He wrote that “the state of conservation” of large components like pumps and steam generators at Taishan “was not at an adequate level” and was “far” from the standards of the two other EPR plants, one in Finland and the other in Flamanville, France.

Tandonnet urged corrective measures and wrote that studies “are under way on tsunami and flooding risks”.

Some 28 reactors of various models are currently under construction in China, more than any other nation, and the country hasn’t reported a serious nuclear accident in the 22 years it has operated nuclear plants for commercial use.

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