World newswires

China nuclear reactor shut down for 'maintenance': operator

A reactor at a nuclear plant in southern China was shut down for "maintenance" due to minor fuel damage, the operator said Friday, after an increase in radioactivity levels previously sparked fears of a leak.

Chinese authorities last month blamed minor fuel rod damage for a build-up of radioactive gases at the Taishan plant in Guangdong province, describing it as a "common phenomenon" with no need for concern.

French nuclear firm Framatome, which helps operate the plant, last month reported a "performance issue" which caused the US government to look into the possibility of a leak.

"After lengthy conversations between French and Chinese technical personnel, Taishan Nuclear Power Plant... decided to shut down Unit 1 for maintenance," China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) said Friday in an online statement, adding that "a small amount of fuel damage" occurred during the operation of the reactor.

CGN said that both units of the plant have "maintained safe and stable operations throughout" and that the faulty reactor is "completely under control."

Engineers will now "find the cause of fuel damage and replace the damaged fuel", the statement added.

There are more than 60,000 fuel rods in the core unit and the proportion of damaged rods is "less than 0.01 percent", China's environment ministry and nuclear regulator previously said.

They called the damage "inevitable" due to factors including fuel manufacturing and transportation.

French energy giant EDF -- the majority owner of Framatome -- also previously blamed the build-up of gases in one of Taishan's reactors on the deteriorating of coating on some uranium fuel rods.

EDF said it was first informed about the fuel rod problem in October, but only learned about the gas build-up in mid-June.

lxc/rbu

EDF - ELECTRICITE DE FRANCE

CGN Power