Tue, Mar 17, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Living in the shadow of a nuclear meltdown

By Lu Shyi-min 呂錫民

On the fourth anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) issued a call for mobilization and participation in the nationwide antinuclear protests that took place on Saturday, calling it a concrete step on the way toward the goal of a nuclear-free homeland by 2025.

As Taiwan basically runs the same risks of nuclear disaster as Japan, we must learn from the past.

On March 11, 2011, at 14:46pm, there was a magnitude 9 earthquake in the western Pacific, off the coast of Fukushima on the east coast of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. Eleven reactors at four nuclear power plants in the region — Tohoku, Fukushima Nos. 1 and 2, and Tokai No. 2 — were operating at the time and were severely affected by the quake.

Although the external electricity transmissions to these power plants were severed by the earthquake, that did not have a direct effect on the key nuclear safety systems, equipment or installations at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

However, the tsunami that followed brought 14m-high waves — far higher than the 5.7m defenses designed for the plant — destroying almost all the safety equipment at the plant and severely damaging the plant’s four reactors.

Japan is not the only country that has nuclear power plants in areas susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis. Data from the World Nuclear Association show that 20 percent of the 433 nuclear reactors around the world are located in areas where earthquakes are a common occurrence.

In addition, many countries — like Taiwan — built their nuclear plants on the coast, because the cooling system of a reactor requires at least a billion gallons (3.79 billion liters) of water, perhaps more. However, all the power plants located along the coast are at risk of being hit by big waves or a tsunami.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant accident taught us all a painful lesson by revealing the lack of preventive measures and planning for tsunamis and strong earthquakes. Specifically, it made it abundantly clear that earthquakes and tsunamis are crucial factors that must be included when considering the safety of nuclear power plants in Taiwan.

Taiwan is an isolated island-nation surrounded by water on all sides. In addition, it is located at the edge of the Eurasian plate where it meets the Philippine plate, a region where earthquakes can be felt on a regular basis. Any nuclear power station that is built on the coast of Taiwan is like a nuclear ticking time bomb that could go off at any time.

And unlike Japan, if there is a nuclear disaster in Taiwan, there will be no place to escape to and no place to hide.

Every person in Taiwan lives in the shadow of death, and the only way to guarantee the safety of our lives and homes and the lives and well-being of coming generations is a sustainable energy policy that disposes altogether of nuclear power.

Lu Shyi-min is a retired energy policy researcher.

Translated by Perry Svensson

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top