EDF suggests China should halt nuclear reactor after problems

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PARIS, July 22 (Reuters) - French power group EDF (EDF.PA) said on Thursday that it would halt the Taishan nuclear reactor it operates with a Chinese partner if similar problems around fuel rod seals were to occur in France, suggesting the plant should hit pause.

The state-controlled French group stopped short of directly calling on China to stop operations, and said the venture it runs with China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), the majority shareholder in the plant, should decide.

Its statement comes after EDF said in mid-June it was examining a potential issue at the nuclear power station linked to a build-up of inert gases. U.S. news network CNN reported at the time that the U.S. government was looking into reports of leaks and a potential radiological threat. read more

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EDF had clarified then that the measurements of krypton and xenon, which had affected the primary circuit of reactor No.1 of the Taishan plant, were below maximum levels authorised in China.

China said there was no leak, and refuted a report that it has raised limits on permissible levels of radiation outside the plant. read more

EDF maintained on Thursday that the radiochemical parametres of the primary circuit water it had analysed, after detecting issues with unsealed assembly rods, was below any problematic thresholds established within the plant, as well as by international standards.

But it added that it would have normally looked to halt the plant to analyse the issue further, prevent any deterioration in the fuel rod seals and limit the extent of any necessary cleaning operation that will be needed.

"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," the French company said.

"In Taishan, the corresponding decisions belong to TNPJVC."

The TNPJVC venture is 30% owned by EDF and the rest by CGN.

"We're not in an emergency situation and even less so in a scenario that would entail an accident or incident. Even so (...) we would halt the reactor promptly," a spokesperson for EDF added.

China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which oversees the country's nuclear safety watchdog, has previously said it would closely monitor radioactivity levels at the reactor and also maintain communications with the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as France's nuclear safety watchdog.

The Taishan reactor is the first French-designed Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) to become operational. The technology is also being deployed in France, Finland and at the Hinkley Point C project in Britain.

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Reporting by Benjamin Mallet, Sarah White and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by David Goodman and Dan Grebler

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