Wed, Mar 16, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Premier says local plants ‘much safer’

SAFE AS HOUSES:In light of recent developments in Japan, DPP lawmakers demanded that the premier order the suspension of construction at the No. 4 nuclear power plant

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) responded to legislators’ concerns over nuclear safety yesterday by saying that nuclear power plants in Taiwan were “much safer” than Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi because they used “fourth-generation” reactors.

Telling legislators the government would “humbly” review its disaster plans and make any necessary improvements, Wu said he was confident the geological environment in Taiwan and the structure of its nuclear power plants meant that the country was well prepared to withstand any natural catastrophe.

Regarding the safety of the three nuclear power plants in operation — Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in Shihmen District (石門), New Taipei City (新北市), Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli (萬里), New Taipei City and Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Ma-anshan (馬鞍山), Pingtung County — Wu said all three were “much safer” than Fukushima Dai-ichi, which is the object of international concern following a series of explosions and a possible meltdown.

Asked by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) whether the three nuclear plants were earthquake--resistant, Wu said: “That is difficult to say because even a country like Japan, which is more advanced than us, failed to avert disaster.”

“However, the Fukushima plant was equipped with a third--generation [reactor], while Taiwan’s nuclear power plants operate fourth-generation [sic] ones,” Wu said.

According to related literature, fourth-generation nuclear reactors are still being researched and will not be commercially operational for another two decades or so.

Contacted by the Taipei Times, Chung Ming-lien (鍾明廉), chief of public relations at Taipower Corp, which operates Taiwan’s nuclear plants, said there was no fourth--generation reactor in the country.

The Atomic Energy Council Web site shows the Jinshan power plant uses a BWR-4 (boiling water, second-generation) reactor; the Guosheng plant a BWR-6 (third-generation) reactor; the Ma-anshan plant a PWR (pressurized water, third-generation) reactor; and the No. 4 (Lungmen) will use an ABWR (advanced boiling water, also third-generation) reactor.

Units 2, 3, 4, and 5 at Fukushima Dai-ichi all have BWR-4 reactors similar to that at the Jinshan plant in Taiwan.

Wu also said the containment shells around reactors in Taiwan’s nuclear power plants were thicker than those used in Japan.

In addition, the three operational nuclear power plants in Taiwan were unlikely to be damaged by a tsunami because they were built at elevations of between 12m and 15m, Wu said.

Despite the fact that the No. 4 plant, which is currently under construction, is not located on elevated ground, the likelihood of a tsunami hitting it is also low because “Taiwan has only an outside chance of being hit by tsunamis,” the result of a deep-sea trench off the east coast, Wu said.

“The largest tsunami to ever hit Taiwan was a wave between 4m and 6m recorded in the Keelung area in 1867, while one in the 1900s caused a wave of less than 1m,” he said.

Wu also rallied behind Atomic Energy Council Deputy Minister Huang Tsing-tung (黃慶東), who came under criticism from anti-nuclear activists for drawing an analogy between nuclear power plants established on a consolidated-rock basin and a Buddhist sitting on a lotus platform on Monday to highlight their safety.

“Do you agree with Huang Tsing-tung? Are the nuclear power plants as safe as a Buddhist?” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuo Jung-tsung (郭榮宗) asked.

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