The US government has spent the last week analyzing an allegation of a leak at a Chinese nuclear power plant after a French business that owns and operates it warned of an "imminent radiation hazard."
According to a letter to the US Department of Energy obtained by CNN, Framatome, a French corporation, also said that the Chinese safety authority was raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province to keep it from shutting down. Despite the letter, the Biden administration feels the plant is not yet at "crisis level."
French partner of Chinese nuclear plant warns the US
A probable radioactive leak was discovered at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Hong Kong, which is jointly operated by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and France's Framatome. While China has remained silent on the issue, the French partner in charge of the nuclear project appears to have requested assistance from the US to get the situation under control.
While US officials have determined that the situation does not currently pose a serious safety threat to plant workers or the general public in China, it is unusual for a foreign company to seek assistance from the US government on its own when its Chinese state-owned partner has yet to acknowledge a problem. Should the leak persist or worsen without being corrected, the US might find itself in a difficult situation.
According to US officials, the National Security Council held multiple meetings last week to monitor the situation, including two at the deputy level and another at the assistant secretary level on Friday, led by NSC Senior Director for China Laura Rosenberger and Senior Director for Arms Control Mallory Stewart.
Reports say that the Biden administration has spoken with the French government and their specialists at the Department of Energy about the matter. CNN's sources say that the US has had communication with the Chinese government, though the amount of that engagement is unclear.
Framatome has acknowledged that the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in China's Guangdong region is experiencing performance issues, as per Republic World. The French company stated in a statement released on June 14 that it is working with necessary specialists to evaluate the situation and suggest remedies to any potential issues. Given the potential for broad consequences of a nuclear radiation leak, the Chinese company's silence and the surrounding lack of information on the matter have sparked concern.
China remains silent over nuclear leak allegations
Nearly 24 hours after the facility's operator stated all of the readings were "normal," the Chinese government and its official news services have kept silent over claims of a probable radioactive leak at a nuclear power plant, Newsweek reported. On Monday, China was still on holiday, and headlines about the Taishan nuclear power plant in southern Guangdong province were noticeably absent from news carried by state broadcaster CCTV and official information agency Xinhua.
Late Sunday, the Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company (TNPJVC) refuted a CNN report that said that the facility had been "leaking fission gas." The state-owned China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group said in a statement that it was responding to "agency and media" concerns on the plant's situation.
The site's two reactors were functioning within the required safety and technical requirements, and continual monitoring revealed that environmental indicators inside and outside the plant were "normal," according to the report. The China-France joint venture is mainly owned by CGNPC, with utility company électricité de France (EDF) owning a 30% share.
Despite the plant operator's official denial, news of the possible safety concern does not appear to have made much of an impact on the Chinese internet. Aside from official channels' silence, only a few unauthorized news outlets in the nation reprinted the TNPJVC statement, and none of them referenced the CNN report.