The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City, will possibly not be fueled for operational testing by the end of the year because of the time required for evaluation and other paperwork, Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) said yesterday.
Chang made the remark at the legislature’s Economics Committee, adding that the ministry’s task force is still conducting security testing on the power plant, with the testing scheduled to be finished by June.
Once the ministry finishes testing, it will apply to the Atomic Energy Council for permission to load fuel rods into the reactors.
“However, it takes time,” Chang said. “We need three more months to prepare for the application [to the Atomic Energy Council] after concluding security testing.”
State-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) chairman Hwang Jung-chiou (黃重球) told the committee that Taipower’s priority is to make sure the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant’s contruction is concluded as scheduled.
“It is our goal to submit the application by September, but that’s not a guarantee,” Hwang said.
Citing new rules set by the Atomic Energy Council, Hwang said the council plans to invite the US’ Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to evaluate whether the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant can be fueled once it receives the ministry’s application.
Including the time for the council and NRC to check a total of 75 evaluation items, it may take another three to four months for the ministry’s application to be reviewed, he added.
“The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant could possibly not receive approval for operational testing this year, and testing would be postponed until the first half of next year at the earliest,” Hwang said.
On Sunday, the ministry said an expert panel’s assessment found that the possibilities of earthquakes and tsunamis affecting the safety of the power plant are minimal.
The safety assessment report concluded that the nuclear power plant would not be affected by the consequences of ground movements or undersea volcanoes nearby.
According to the report, no faults were found to have been recently active within or near the power plant, while a fault structure located near a turbine building of the plant has proved to be not a capable fault as defined by the US’ nuclear guide.
In addition, the strength of potential earthquakes surrounding the nuclear plant is far smaller than the plant’s earthquake-resistant design, it said.
The plant’s construction has seen repeated starts and stops for more than a decade due to political wrangling.
Opposition to nuclear power has grown in Taiwan following the meltdown of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011, leaving the government hard-pressed to convince a skeptical population that the plant can be operated safely.