A potentially dangerous mishap took place at a nuclear power plant near Hong Kong when five damaged fuel rods led to a buildup of radioactive gases inside the reactor. The Chinese government on Wednesday this week acknowledged the incident but said no radioactivity leak was reported from the plant.
In a statement released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, China admitted to radiations rising inside the No 1 reactor of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province but insisted that it was contained by barriers that functioned as planned.
The reports of a possible leak at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant prompted concerns in nearby Hong Kong. The government of Hong Kong said it was closely monitoring the plant and asking officials in Guangdong for details after its French co-owner on Monday reported increased “noble gases” in the reactor. According to the experts, the suggested fuel rods broke and leaked radioactive gas produced during nuclear fission.
Noble gases such as xenon and krypton are by-products of fission along with particles of cesium, strontium and other radioactive elements.
“There is no threat of radioactive leakage to the environment,” the ministry said in its statement. It also added that the radiation in the reactor coolant increased but was within the “allowable range”.
The Ministry also said that the protective envelope on about five of the reactor’s 60,000 fuel rods is damaged. The Ministry chalked up the damage to the manufacturing and other problems in the reactor. It said regulators would supervise measures to control radiation levels within the reactor but gave no details.
The Taishan plant, which began its commercial operations in 2018, is jointly co-owned by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and France’s Electricite de France. The reactors are a first of their type called European Pressurised Reactors designed by Framatome, of which Electricite de France is the majority owner.
Though experts believe that a Chernobyl-like fate was averted, they are still doubtful of the extent of the damage as claimed by China. The skepticism is driven from the fact that China has often been misleading and not entirely honest about the its internal operations.
Top Chinese nuclear scientist found dead after falling from a building
In a separate incident, one of China’s top nuclear scientists and the Vice-President of Harbin Engineering University died after falling off from a building. On Thursday, Zhang Zhijian, Vice-President of the Chinese Nuclear Society was found dead.
Reports say police have ruled out homicide as the cause of death after on-site investigations failed to provide any further details.
“Harbin Engineering University announces with deep grief that Professor Zhang Zhijian regrettably fell off a building and died at 9.34 am on June 17, 2021. The university expresses deep sorrow over the passing of comrade Zhang Zhijian and deep condolences to his family,” the statement issued by the University said.
Professor at the college of nuclear science and technology at the university, Zhang was also the vice-president of the Chinese Nuclear Society. He was also a member of the standing committee of the Communist Party committee at the university.