Letter David Lowry: Your report on the industrial implications for the UK of the first proposed Chinese designed nuclear power plant rightly raised safety concerns. Guo Ruiting, China General Nuclear Power Corp’s deputy chief engineer for the Taishan EPR-design nuclear plant near Hong Kong, which would be the “reference plant” for the projected new build plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, may be “bullish” in calling his reactor “ the safest”. Other Chinese nuclear safety experts are not so sanguine about Chinese nuclear safety. Nuclear industry veteran Li Yulun, a former vice-president of China National Nuclear Corp, observed two years ago: “Our state leaders have put a high priority on [nuclear safety] but companies executing projects do not seem to have the same level of understanding.” The world’s first AP1000 third-generation nuclear power plant — the competitor for the Taishan design — being built in Sanmen, China, has fallen behind schedule, and questions have increasingly been raised over its safety standards. Just as the EPR and Japanese-design Advanced Boiling Water Reactor developed by Hitachi (with US company GE) have had to undergo painstaking independent safety and security evaluation by the UK’s independent Office for Nuclear Regulation, so too will the Chinese nuclear plant design, in a process known as generic design assessment. This scrutiny may come as a rude shock to the Chinese nuclear plant manufacturers, who are used to what is effectively self-regulation inside China, as state-owned companies. It will be especially interesting to see if the ONR subjects the CGN reactor design to intrusive probing on its claimed security status, both in terms of physical robustness against external malevolent intrusion, and internally with its cyber security for its complex computer systems.
FT 7th Jan 2016 read more »