According to the arrangements of the State Council, Ministry of Environmental Protection (National Nuclear safety Administration, NNSA) in cooperation with relevant departments organized national comprehensive safety check on civil nuclear facilities and developed the "12th Five-Year Plan for Nuclear Safety and Prevention and control of Radioactive Pollution and 2020 Vision (hereinafter referred to as "nuclear safety plan") during March ~December of 2011. The executive meeting of the State Council reviewed and approved in principle the Report on Comprehensive Safety Check and the nuclear safety plan on May 31, 2012. It agreed to make it public and solicit public opinions.
To this end, a reporter interviewed relevant head from MEP (NNSA) on issues including comprehensive safety check and nuclear safety plan of common concern.
1. Would you please introduce the national comprehensive check on safety of nuclear facilities and its findings?
Answer: According to the arrangements of the State Council, Ministry of Environmental Protection (National Nuclear safety Administration, NNSA). NDRC (National Energy Bureau) and China Seismological Bureau conducted comprehensive safety check on 41 in-service and under-construction nuclear generating units, 3 nuclear generating units ready for construction, civil research reactors and nuclear fuel circulation facilities across the country during March ~ December of 2011. The large scale check is conducted based on nuclear safety laws, regulations and technical standards of our country with reference to the latest IAEA nuclear safety standard and the lessons of Fukushima nuclear accident.
The focuses of the check include the following 11 areas: the appropriateness of external events assessed in the process of site selection; anti-flood program of nuclear facilities and anti-flood capacity assessment; anti-earthquake program of nuclear facilities and assessment of site anti-earthquake capacity; effectiveness of QA system for nuclear facilities and quality of nuclear power plants under construction; check on fire-fighting system of nuclear facilities; prevention of overlapping accidents due to several kinds of extreme natural events and environmental protection measures; analysis and assessment of power failure of the plant and availability of additional power supply in case of loss of emergency power supply as well as emergency response program; prevention and mitigation measures for serious accidents and their reliability assessment; publicity and information disclosure; effectiveness of environment monitoring system and environment emergency response system; other possible weak links.
The safety check is conducted by means such as program assessment, self check on the safety of each nuclear facilities, technical review, site survey, result assessment and topic studies. The check is jointly organized by MEP (NNSA), National Energy Bureau and China Seismological Bureau and has mobilized over 300 experts from MEP (NNSA) Nuclear Safety and Environment Expert Committee, Energy Bureau Energy Advisory Committee, each nuclear and radiation safety supervision center affiliated to Ministry of Environmental Protection and MEP Nuclear and Radiation Safety Center and other relevant organizations.
The check is carried out in the following different stages: 1) identify the focuses and bases for the check and develop check program; 2) each nuclear facilities operating unit carries out self check based on the check program. 3) technical assessment of the self examination results and reexamine the important safety issues. 4) conduct site inspection and witness necessary tests. 5) carry out some major special studies. 6) identify the improvement measures and requirements that each nuclear facilities should conduct or meet.
This nuclear safety check is reevaluation of the safety of nuclear facilities in our country after the Fukushima nuclear accident, the contents and depth of the check is basically in consistent with the check conducted by international communities soon after the Fukushima nuclear accident.
The published report gives the check findings in detail. In general, the safety of nuclear facilities in our country is guaranteed. There is extremely low possibility of nuclear accident in nuclear facilities of our country similar to the Fukushima nuclear accident due to very different site conditions. However, there are still some weak points in nuclear facilities of our country when confronting with extreme natural disasters similar to that causing Fukushima nuclear accident. Ministry of Environmental Protection (NNSA) and National Energy Bureau have developed short-term, mid-term and long-term plans, required and urged all civil nuclear facilities to finish corresponding improvement work on time. At present, these improvement activities are under smooth progress, some short-term projects have been finished and the mid- and long-terms projects are developed according to plan.
2. What is the background and role for developing nuclear safety plan?
Answer: According to the overall requirements of the State Council for developing the "12th Five-Year Plan", the "12th Five-Year Plan" for Nuclear Safety and Prevention and Control of Radioactive Pollution and 2020 Target is one of the special plans subject to the approval of the State Council.
Ministry of Environmental Protection organized relevant scholars and experts to carry out several rounds of studies and justification and conducted research in 12 topics for over one year and finished the nuclear safety plan. With sound cooperation and coordination, National departments such as MEP, NDRC, Ministry of Finance, State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense and National Energy Bureau had repeated discussions and taken full consideration of other plans. It has been adopted in principle on May 31, 2012 after two topic reviews of the executive meetings of the State Council.
Having systematically summarized past experience of our country in nuclear safety, the Nuclear Safety Plan based on existing plans and requirements for the development of nuclear cause of our country has developed the overall thinking for nuclear safety work during the "12th Five-Year Plan" period and beyond. It is both a comprehensive plan of our country for nuclear safety and prevention and control of radioactive pollution and a relatively complete and detailed top design for nuclear safety. With specific requirements and comprehensive contents, the Nuclear Safety Plan is a programmatic document guiding nuclear safety and prevention and control of radioactive pollution in our country during the "12th Five-Year Plan" period and even to 2020.
The release of nuclear safety plan identifies the situation, challenge, guidelines and objectives, main tasks and guarantee conditions for nuclear safety work and fully reflects the high attention of CCCPC and the State Council to nuclear safety and prevention and control of radioactive pollution. We believe that with gradual implementation of the plan, it is expected that by 2020, nuclear power safety of our country will keep on maintaining world advanced level; nuclear safety and prevention and control of radioactive pollution will be improved in an round way, and radiation environmental quality will remain good.
3. What is the safety performance of nuclear power plants in our country compared with that of other countries in the world?
Answer: At present, most in-service nuclear power plants are designed and manufactured in 1960s and 1970s. However, the construction of nuclear power plants in our country began in mid of 1980s. The design, construction and management of nuclear power plants in our country have absorbed the experience of several dozens of years of relevant countries in the world, therefore, the safety level is quite high.
1) The international communities have accumulated rich experience at the time when China establishes its nuclear safety regulations and standards. IAEA has developed systematic and mature safety standard for reference. The regulations of our country have been established in accordance with IAEA safety standard system with safety requirements consistent with the international standard.
2) Nuclear industry of our country began in early 1950s. China has relatively complete nuclear industry system and developed relatively complete technologies and talents reserve in mid 1980s when nuclear power began rapid development after the accumulation of the past years.
3) The design, construction and management of nuclear power plants in our country have comprehensively absorbed the experience of several dozens of years of relevant countries in the world. The design of nuclear power plants is more advanced and mature. The manufacture of equipment complies with more stringent nuclear industry standard and QA requirements, which has high quality.
4) Nuclear power plants of our country have always been carrying out the "Safety First" principle in operational management and established effective quality assurance system. The industry has actively advocated and cultivated nuclear safety culture, the workers and management have taken nuclear safety as the top priority. Meanwhile, the industry has kept on absorbing the experiences and lessons at home and abroad during the operation of nuclear power plants, corrected any problem and improved its performance.
5) NNSA has conducted strict technical review and whole-process site supervision on all nuclear power plants. It has carried out strict license system for important nuclear activities.
At present, there are 15 in-service nuclear power generating units in mainland China. Up to now, there is no operational event at or over INES Grade II. There is not any nuclear accidents in China damaging people or polluting the environment. Based on main performance indicators of WANO, the in-service nuclear power generating units in our country are at good level in the world. The safety of some generating units is at advanced level in the world, some even rank the top. For example, two generating units of Qinshan No.3 Nuclear Power Plant have ranked No.1 several times in WANO ranking and been at international advanced level for six consecutive years. Dayawan Nuclear Power Plant has won 27 No.1 in safety performance contest of similar nuclear power generating units in France since 1999.
4. What are the impacts of the operation of nuclear facilities of our country on the environment?
Answer: The Earth on which we live is a natural radiation field. Our everyday life is subject to various kind of radiation at any time, including baseline and artificial radiation. According to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation report, the per capita radiation dose in the world is 2.8 mSv/y, 2.4 mSv/y of which comes from natural radiation and the rest 0.4 mSv/y (mainly medical radiation) comes from artificial radiation. The standard of our country stipulates that the additional dose of artificial nuclear activities to the public shall be no more than 1 mSv/y.
Our country has established radiation environment monitoring system as early as the commencement of development of nuclear power, which including radiation environmental quality monitoring, monitoring of the surrounding environment of nuclear facilities and environment emergency response monitoring of nuclear accident. Relevant departments organize radioactivity baseline investigation on the site of nuclear facilities to accumulate data before the construction. During the operational process of nuclear facilities, the operating units carry out environment monitoring activities and report monitoring results. Environmental protection departments conduct supervision monitoring on the nuclear facilities.
The monitoring results of the past years show that radiation dose and discharge of radioactive waste surrounding nuclear facilities in our country is far lower than the national limit. The radioactive waste gas and waste water discharged from nuclear power plants are less than 1% of national discharge limit. The generated amount of solid radioactive waste is only a fraction of the design value. The maximum annual effective dose to the individual living in vicinity of nuclear facilities during normal operational period of nuclear power plants is 1/10000 of national limit, less than 1/10000 of natural baseline radiation level. The environment radiation level in vicinity of nuclear facilities always falls into the fluctuations of natural baseline level.
5. What are the experiences and lessons of the Fukushima nuclear accident? What measures has our country taken to ensure nuclear safety after the Fukushima nuclear accident?
Answer: Fukushima nuclear accident is a big accident in the history of development of nuclear power in the world with profound impacts on the development of nuclear power and nuclear safety, teaching us a deep lesson.
Fukushima nuclear accident gives us a warning: we must further understand the extreme importance and basic law of nuclear safety and improve nuclear safety culture and level. We should further raise nuclear safety standard and safety level of nuclear facilities. We should further improve emergency response mechanism and capacity. We should further strengthen self management, technical capacity and resources supporting capacity of operating organizations. We should further enhance the independence, authority and effectiveness of nuclear safety supervision departments. We should further strengthen research and development of nuclear safety technology and facilitate continuous improvement and progress of nuclear safety by scientific innovation. We should further beef up the sharing of nuclear safety experience and capacity. We should further strengthen publicity and information disclosure. We also should further strengthen the capacity of nuclear facilities in addressing various kinds of natural disasters and preventing and reducing serious accidents. With stronger sense of responsibility, mission and urgency, all government departments and relevant institutions and enterprises must strengthen the work on nuclear safety and prevention and control of radioactive pollution and strive for achievement of higher objective.
Our country has taken the following measures soon after the Fukushima nuclear accident:
1) Successful emergency response to Fukushima nuclear accident. MEP (NNSA) launched emergency response program to the nuclear accident at the first time and urged monitoring forces at all levels to take immediate action to closely track the development of the event; monitor and analyze the radioactive nuclide in the air; and study and judge the accident progress. Meanwhile, National Nuclear Accident Emergency Response Coordination Commission made public authoritative information in time.
2) Comprehensive safety check on civil nuclear facilities across the country. The findings of the check confirm that the safety of nuclear facilities in our country is guaranteed (Detailed explanations are presented in the check report).
3) Summary of the lessons of Fukushima nuclear accident. NNSA has suggested all kinds of improvement for nuclear safety and developed and released the General Technical Requirements for Improvement of Nuclear Power Plants after Fukushima Nuclear Accident guiding the improvement based on the findings of comprehensive safety check, which will be implemented according to the short-term, mid-term and long-term plans.
4) Change and improvement of the "12th Five-Year Plan for Nuclear Safety and Prevention and Control of Radioactive Pollution and 2020 Vision.
5) Further strengthening and enhancing nuclear safety supervision capacity. The authority has strengthened and improved government supervision on nuclear safety, environment emergency response to nuclear accidents and nuclear industry administrative institutions, building of workforce and further improved supervision and management capacity. The current amount of people working in NNSA and its regional centers as well as technical supporting organizations is 1000.
6. How does our country carry out supervision on nuclear safety?
Answer: The Law of our country stipulates that nuclear facilities operators shall shoulder comprehensive safety responsibility. In order to further strengthen the attention of operators to safety and ensure the fulfillment of safety responsibility of operators, our country establishes the nuclear safety supervision institution —— NNSA independent from nuclear power development department.
The independent nuclear safety supervision on nuclear facilities conducted by NNSA during site selection, design, construction, operation and decommissioning includes technical review, administrative license, supervision and check and so on. NNSA establishes six regional nuclear and radiation safety supervision centers, which send site supervision people to each nuclear power plant to conduct 24-hours site supervision on nuclear power plant. Nuclear safety supervision in our country has taken the method consistent with the international practice with the following characteristics:
1) Establishment of systematic and complete nuclear safety regulations and standard based on IAEA safety standard, which maintains the same pace with international safety standard.
2) Staged administrative license system of NNSA on nuclear power plants. In each stage such as site selection, construction, fuel loading, operation and decommission, nuclear power plant shall not begin the activities of the next stage until it obtains relevant permit.
3) Strict technical review on nuclear safety. The design of important structures, systems and equipment of nuclear power plant relevant to nuclear safety must be subject to technical review of NNSA and independent estimate check. Only when it is confirmed that relevant regulations and standards are met can NNSA issue relevant administrative license.
4) The whole-process supervision by NNSA on the activities such as design, manufacture, construction, commissioning, operation and even decommission of nuclear power plant.
Nuclear power plants in our country have always been under strict supervision of NNSA during each stage, including:
(1) Early preparation of nuclear power plant
After general selection and preliminary Feasibility Study Report of the site options, the operator of nuclear power plant would carry out topic studies such as topographic survey, hydrological survey, geology, earthquake, geotechnical engineering, population distribution, meteorology, marine areas, water and soil conservation of the proposed sites and identify the best site. Then, the nuclear power enterprise and local government report to relevant national department the documents applying for early stage activities. The early stage activities shall not begin until they are reviewed and approved by relevant national department.
For the preliminary selected site of proposed nuclear power plant during early stage work, NNSA would conduct its supervision by means of several approaches such as real-time monitoring by remote satellite and regular site inspection to prevent ground leveling without permission or construction going beyond the scope.
(2) Site selection of nuclear power plant
NNSA will conduct technical review of the Report on Safety Analysis of Nuclear Power Plant Site and Nuclear Power Plant Environment Impact Statement (Site Selection Stage) submitted by nuclear power plant operating organization to review and determine if the selected site complies with the requirements of relevant regulations and standards in terms of safety and environmental impacts. After obtaining the Review Opinion on Selection of Nuclear Power Plant Site from NNSA, the operator of nuclear power plant may level the ground and conduct construction preparation work. NNSA will supervise and check the site foundation during this period.
(3) Construction of nuclear power plant
The construction of main plant building, i.e. concrete pouring of nuclear island foundation marks the commencement of construction of nuclear power plant. Nuclear power plant must submit to NNSA technical documents such as Report on Primary Analysis of Safety of Nuclear Power Plant and Nuclear Power Plant Environment Impact Statement (Construction Stage) before that. NNSA would review the design of important structures, systems and equipment relevant to safety of nuclear power plant to ensure that the design of nuclear power plant complies with nuclear safety and environmental protection requirements.
Based on technical review comments and approval of the State Council on the project, NNSA would issue the License for Construction of Nuclear Power Plant. Nuclear power plant shall not conduct the first concrete pouring on the foundation of the nuclear island until it obtains the license.
The site supervision people from NNSA carry out whole-process supervision on activities such as construction, system and equipment installation, cold and hot commissioning, pre-feeding preparation during the construction period. They conduct technical review on various safety and quality problems occurred in nuclear power plant and present requirements. The review and supervision during construction stage ensures the construction quality of nuclear power plant.
(4) The first loading of nuclear power plant
The first feed refers to the first time nuclear power plant loads nuclear fuel, and it has true nuclear risks ever since. The first loading is the beginning of the operation.
NNSA conducts technical review of the Environment Impact Statement of Nuclear Power Plant (Operation Stage) and Report on Analysis of Final Safety of Nuclear Power Plant submitted by operators and commissioning results before the first loading, including areas such as safety analysis, environment impacts, commissioning, pre-operation check, license of operators and emergency response plan. NNSA will issue the Approval Letter on the First Load of Nuclear Power Plant after confirmation of meeting safety requirements, then nuclear power plant may load nuclear fuels.
NNSA and its regional centers carry out whole-process supervision of commissioning and loading activities, including the commissioning of all systems and equipment of nuclear power plant, preparation of regulations and procedures on commissioning and operation and human resource preparation and choose some commissioning tests for special verification. Only after completing all necessary commissioning tests according to plan and review, supervision and recognition process can nuclear power plant carry out reactor critical activities and raise the power.
(5) Operation of nuclear power plant
After at least one-year trial operation, the operator of nuclear power plant will submit an application to NNSA for operation license. NNSA conducts technical review of trial operation of nuclear power plant and issues the operator with Operation License of Nuclear Power Plant after confirmation that it meets safety requirements, then nuclear power plant may officially operates. During several decade’s service period of nuclear power plant, NNSA regional supervision centers send supervisor working permanently in nuclear power plant to carry out 24-hour supervision on the operation of nuclear power plant; present nuclear safety requirements for or take law enforcement action if necessary to the abnormal status and violations found in the process of supervision to ensure operation safety of nuclear power plant.
The construction and operation of nuclear power plants is a systematic project with long period and complex activities. The nuclear safety supervision of nuclear power plants is a kind of administrative work with strict system and procedures. The practice of the past years shows that nuclear safety supervision in our country is effective and nuclear safety is guaranteed.
(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)