Environment & Health SinoBeat

Int’l Atomic Energy Agency to review controversial Taishan plant safety before launch

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will conduct a pre-operational safety review at the controversial Taishan nuclear power plant early next year.

The IAEA, an intergovernmental organisation promoting the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies, will send an Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) of international specialists with senior-level nuclear operator experience to assess Taishan’s safety performance using the IAEA’s Safety Standards, “proposing recommendations for improvement where appropriate and [producing] a report shared with hosts”, the IAEA told FactWire.

taishan nuclear

Photo: FactWire/HKFP.

An OSART mission is a three-week on-site review of a plant’s operation and safety performance, during which experts “conduct interviews with plant staff, observe plant workers, and analyse documents related to plant operation”, the organisation’s website explains. “It is not a regulatory inspection, nor is it a design review or a substitute for an exhaustive assessment of the plant’s overall safety status”, a spokesperson said.

The IAEA said the review was requested by Chinese authorities. The IAEA did not say exactly when the request was made. A request must be made at least 18 to 24 months in advance of the mission. The spokesperson said the review report was expected to be delivered to authorities before the plant begins operating, adding that governments usually invite a follow-up mission within two years of the initial mission.

Taishan nuclear plant

Photo: FactWire.

Founded in 1982, IAEA’s OSART programme has reviewed almost every type of nuclear reactor and over 150 nuclear power plants, including China General Nuclear Power Group’s (CGN) plants at Daya Bay, Ling Ao, and Hongyanhe plants. CGN owns and manages the Taishan plant.

taishan nuclear

Photo: Factwire.

Scheduled to launch next year, Taishan uses third-generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) technology, the most advanced in the world. According to CGN’s online information, key operators of the Taishan plant, including radioactive fuel operators, are trained by CGN in Shenzhen’s Daya Bay. Official CGN sources claim the Shenzhen training centre is the world’s only centre outside of France that trains, tests and certifies radioactive fuel operators through reality-based simulation. CGN launched the training centre in February 2014, and certified its first group of Taishan operators in December of that year.

factwire nuclear

Photo: Factwire.

FactWire earlier reported that the first two reactors at the Taishan nuclear power plant had been  sealed despite safety concerns about reactor components, and were scheduled to launch in the first half of 2017 as planned. Developed by French company AREVA, the manufacturing process of the reactor pressure vessel has been found to be inherently flawed, causing safety concerns about the reactor pressure vessels used in Taishan. In addition, the reactor pressure vessel of both reactors were not French-made, as was previously believed, but were instead manufactured by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and China’s Dongfang Electric Corporation.

CGN has not yet responded to FactWire’s requests for comment.

Int'l Atomic Energy Agency to review controversial Taishan plant safety before launch