China Silent Over Nuclear Leak Allegations as Taishan Plant Says Readings 'Normal'

The Chinese government and its official news services have remained silent amid reports of a suspected radiation leak at a nuclear power plant, nearly 24 hours after the facility's operator claimed all of the readings were "normal."

China was still observing a public holiday on Monday, and news presented by state broadcaster CCTV and official information service Xinhua has notably avoided reports concerning the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in the southern Guangdong province.

The Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company (TNPJVC) released a statement late on Sunday to pre-emptively refute a CNN report claiming the facility had been "leaking fission gas."

The exclusive, published on Monday, said the power plant's French partner, Framatome, had reached out to the United States government for assistance in resolving an "imminent radiological threat."

In its statement, the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group said it was responding to "agency and media" inquiries into the situation at the plant. Both reactors at the site were operating within the required safety and technical standards, while continuous readings showed environmental indicators inside and outside the plant were "normal," it added.

CGNPC is majority owner of the China-France joint venture, with utility firm Électricité de France (EDF) holding a 30 percent stake.

Despite the plant operator's official denial, news of the potential safety hazard seems not to have reached the Chinese internet in any meaningful way. Beyond the silence of official channels, only a handful of unofficial news outlets in the country reposted TNPJVC's statement, and none mentioned the CNN report.

Meanwhile, social media sites have carried only a sporadic mention of the situation at the facility, which is roughly 80 miles west of Hong Kong.

On Weibo, the country's largest social media website with over 500 million active monthly users, a search for "Taishan Nuclear Power Plant"returned only two pages of results for June 13 and 14. They included screenshots of the CNN report and reposts of TNPJVC's statement—both with little engagement.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., didn't respond to Newsweek's request for comment before publication.

The two reactors at the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant were built in 2008 and went online in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

According to CNN, the plant's designer and equipment supplier Framatome—mainly owned by France's EDF—alerted the Biden administration to its concerns in two memos dated June 3 and 8.

Framatome claimed the site was continuing to operate despite the fission gas leak because China's top nuclear authority had revised the safety limit to beyond indicators acceptable under French standards.

The Biden administration has been assessing the reports for several weeks, and the White House held National Security Council meetings to discuss the matter, CNN said.

U.S. officials determined the situation was "not at crisis level," suggesting Framatome's concerns were not an immediate danger to Taishan and its 1 million residents.

Correction 6/15/21, 11 a.m. ET: This article was updated to correct the current name of the China General Nuclear Power Group.

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