China Insists Taishan Nuclear Plant Radiation Levels Normal, Despite Fears

Beijing says the safety of its nuclear power plant in southern China is "guaranteed," following alarming reports about a fission gas leak in recent weeks.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, told reporters on Tuesday that the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province met all technical requirements. "No abnormalities in radiation levels have been detected in the surrounding environment."

"Its safety is guaranteed," he said.

Concerns surrounding one of the facility's two reactors emerged on Monday, after a CNN report revealed that the plant's French joint operator Framatome had written twice to the U.S. in June in order to obtain approval for technical assistance.

The Taishan plant's majority stakeholder is the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), which was placed on the U.S. entity list by the Trump administration. To assist in what Framatome described as an "imminent radiological threat," the French firm required U.S. approval.

The Chinese government dismissed safety concerns at the site in Taishan, which is roughly 80 miles west of Hong Kong and has a population of just under 1 million. Guangdong, meanwhile, is the country's largest province, with around 115 million residents.

"China attaches great importance to nuclear safety and has established a nuclear safety supervision system that is in line with international standards and national conditions," the foreign ministry's Zhao said.

He added: "China's nuclear power plants have maintained a good operating record. There have been no incidents affecting the environment and public health."

Reached by email on Monday, the Chinese Embassy in Washington referred Newsweek to the Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company (TNPC), which carried a statement that appeared to pre-empt the CNN report.

In the notice posted to the company's website late on Sunday, CGN said continuous readings in and around the plant showed environmental indicators were "normal."

However, despite the operator's refutation and Beijing's official position on the subject, there remains little media engagement in China. The country's official news service Xinhua and state broadcaster CCTV have yet to mention the matter in either Chinese or English.

CGTN, CCTV's international arm, carried a brief report on Tuesday claiming China had "slammed the U.S. government for a false report" on the suspected leak.

A Framatome spokesperson told Newsweek on Monday that it was "supporting resolution of a performance issue with the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong Province, China."

"According to the data available, the plant is operating within the safety parameters. Our team is working with relevant experts to assess the situation and propose solutions to address any potential issue," the statement added.

In a further clarification on the same day, Framatome's owner, the majority state-owned Électricité de France (EDF), said it was investigating the report by its subsidiary.

According to AFP, the probe involves a buildup of the inert gases krypton and xenon in reactor unit 1, which EDF said was a "known phenomenon, studied and foreseen by the operating procedures of the reactors."

An EDF spokesperson said radiation levels at the plane were below the threshold set by the Chinese nuclear safety authority, but noted it was too soon to say whether it required a complete shutdown of the reactor.

According to China's Communist Party newspaper Global Times, the Taishan plant has two 1,750-megawatt reactors, which were connected to the grid in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

China Nuclear Power Plant Scrutinized Over Leak
The Taishan Nuclear Power Plant, a Chinese and French state joint venture in Guangdong, China. China Internet Information Center