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Chinese Nuclear Plant Welding Defects Were Known

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Posted December 21, 2017

Nuclear power plant. Image credit: Benita5 via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Construction at China’s Taishan Nuclear Power Plant has derailed due to a faulty deaerator. Even though the boiler part delayed the schedule at the almost-complete nuclear facility, documents indicate the problem isn’t surprising to people involved with the project.

The Deaerator Failed During a Crucial Test

During assessments, the aerator reportedly cracked. This outcome prompted a recent visit from Harbin Electric when company representatives met with the plant operator to discuss ways to facilitate replacements of deaerators.

However, sources say the power plant withstood thermal and cold functional tests. Those proceeded without issues. Also, reports indicate the deaerator is a common component that does not affect overall nuclear safety.

The Manufacturer Faced Long-Standing Challenges During Production of the Part

There is evidence that Harbin Boiler experienced issues with the poorly performing deaerator since as far back as 2012. Documents show the manufacturer had technical problems causing large gaps between segments of the deaerator. As a result, it was necessary to perform re-molding during on-site installation to remove the unexpected openings. The practice is similar to the use of hot wedge welding for plastics.

The heat from the wedge fully melts the coating on the plastic. Then, applied pressure creates a solid seal once the materials cool. The finished welded joints resist tearing and cracking, causing a hermetic seal for liquids and air.

Replacements Are Underway

Reports from the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corporation say the removal of the defective deaerators is in progress and nearly finished. A statement brings up “partial defects” in the welding process. The new parts shipped in three sections, and welders fit the trio of components together at the plant.

Hong Kong Nuclear Drill Scheduled

Representatives from the Hong Kong government scheduled a two-day nuclear emergency safety drill near the end of December. Referred to as “Checkerboard II,” the exercise will reportedly cover preventative measures, such as radiation monitoring, plus what to do in the event of an urgent evacuation.

There are several nuclear reactors situated within a short distance of Hong Kong. Although the deaerator issue in the Taishan plant may not have been the sole factor that led to scheduling the drill, it’s evident Chinese officials need action plans in place in case of severe consequences at any one of the plants.

It has also been five years since the last drill of this kind. The findings gained from it should help citizens feel more prepared, as well as highlight the circumstances area representatives need to be especially aware of in case something goes wrong.

A Worrisome Trend in Nuclear Safety

It has also become apparent that structural flaws in equipment at a Daya Bay nuclear facility similar to the recently discovered issue’s with the deaerators at Taishan. Activists are troubled by this development, especially due to the previous news that parts of the Daya Bay nuclear facility were manufactured in China, not France as initially claimed.

People are concerned because the Taishan plant is less than 100 miles from Hong Kong. If problems don’t get resolved before the facility becomes fully operational, there is an obvious risk to Hong Kong’s population

The goal was to have the Taishan plant operational by the end of the year. It’s too soon to tell how much the deaerator flaw will affect that timeline.

Also, it could have a long-lasting effect that causes a lack of confidence from society about the power plant and the companies involved in its establishment.

After all, the more this story and others like it make headlines, the harder the associated companies will have to work to prove safe practices and manufacturing techniques to concerned citizens and society members at large.

Written by Kayla Matthews, Productivity Bytes.

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