South China Morning Post 2010-06-15

Report of Daya Bay nuclear leak dismissed by CLP and government

The government and CLP Power have dismissed a report by Radio Free Asia claiming the Daya Bay nuclear plant in Shenzhen had suffered a major leak that was threatening public safety.

The report one of the Washington-based station's Chinese-language websites quoted a Hong Kong expert source as saying the plant's number two unit experienced an abnormal situation on May 23 in which a large amount of radioactive iodine was released into the air.

It said the management had kept the incident secret and later reported it to authorities in Beijing.

CLP Power said last night that the report was false. It said there was an incident on May 23 but radiation was not released. There was a slight increase of radioactive iodine and radioactive gas in the cooling water of reactor unit 2. It said the level of these substances had remained stable over the past two weeks. Initial analysis showed there was a minor leak in a fuel rod. An expert group was monitoring the situation.

CLP Power said the incident was so minor it did not earn a rating on an international nuclear incident rating system, but the plant - 50 kilometres from Hong Kong - had reported the incident to the state nuclear safety authorities and its own safety consultative committee, a body set up by the Hong Kong government.

Hong Kong's Security Bureau said the Observatory's radiation monitoring stations had not spotted anything strange on May 23. It would study the incident further and follow up with CLP Power.

Civic Party vice-chairman Albert Lai Kwong-tak said his party urged the Hong Kong government to tell the public what had happened because it involved the safety of everyone in the city.


South China Morning Post 2010-06-16

Nuclear industry is safest way to make electricityˇJ spokesman

In the 1950s, atmospheric nuclear tests in the Nevada desert became a tourist attraction, drawing thousands of Americans to Las Vegas hotels from where they could see the distinctive mushroom clouds.

Subsequently, some 10,500 people suffered from various cancers as a result of their exposure to radiation from the explosions.

Safety has since been taken more seriously with regards to nuclear testing and peaceful use of nuclear energy in power stations.

"Nuclear power is easily the safest way of generating electricity on any large scale. In some 14,000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial operation in 32 countries, there have only been two major accidents," said Ian Hore-Lacy, director for public communications with the World Nuclear Association (WNA).

The most serious accident was the April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, when about 50 people died. "It was the product of a flawed Soviet reactor design coupled with serious mistakes made by the plant operators. It was a direct consequence of cold war isolation and the resulting lack of any safety culture," Hore-Lacy said.

The other serious incident occurred in 1979 at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the US, when a cooling malfunction caused the destruction of one of the reactor units.

Some radioactive gas was released, but not enough to cause any dose above background levels to local residents, and there were no injuries or adverse health effects as a result of the accident, according to Hore-Lacy.

The power plant at Daya Bay, which reported a small leakage, is a similar design to the Three Mile Island one, in that nuclear power is used to produce steam which turns turbines to produce electricity. It also has multiple safety systems.

Nuclear power plants have extensive security measures to prevent sabotage, and reactor containment buildings are designed to be impervious to catastrophes such as hurricanes, floods and impact from aircraft.

The WNA website notes that, "a commercial-type reactor simply cannot under any circumstances explode like a nuclear bomb".

According to the WNA, there are 439 operating nuclear power plants generating 2,569 billion kWh, accounting for 14 per cent of global electricity generation.

The safety record of the nuclear power industry is well above other energy producing industries.

The worst is the coal mining industry in China, which in 2003 recorded almost 7,000 deaths but which fell to a still significant 2,630 last year, according to China's State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.