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.
“This was not a groundless analogy,” Wu said.
Wu also said it would be “inappropriate” to fly the national flag at half-mast in sympathy with Japan, as no other country had done so.
“If everyone wears shorts to the swimming pool, but we chose to wear a suit, it would be extremely strange, wouldn’t it,” he said.
Taiwan would observe international protocol, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would look into, he said.
DPP Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) said the country flew the national flag at half-mast following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US.
Meanwhile, DPP lawmakers demanded that Wu order the suspension of construction at the No. 4 plant, a move Wu rejected.
Wu said that the government would make a thorough safety inspection of the plant before it goes into operation, which will now not be the end of this year as planned.
KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said halting construction of the plant was “a stupid idea” as it would cost the country large amounts of money for breach of contract.
Rather than halting construction, the government should support and develop systems off the coast to monitor undersea seismic movements to provide warnings of earthquakes and tsunamis, Lin said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY J. MICHAEL COLE AND VINCENT Y. CHAO
NPP WARNING: The NPP’s chairman said that a security law proposed by Beijing means it has renounced its promise to maintain ‘one country, two systems’ in HK The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) yesterday proposed changing the law to provide protection for those seeking political asylum. China at the opening of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Thursday introduced a draft security law for Hong Kong to ban treason, subversion and sedition, with a review expected next week. TPP caucus whip Jang Chyi-lu (張其祿) said that the party is concerned about democracy advocates in Hong Kong and has taken action to support them. The party has proposed an amendment to Article 18 of the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau (香港澳門關係條例), which stipulates that the government can offer
The number of people from Hong Kong applying for residency in Taiwan last year rose 41 percent from a year earlier to 5,858, National Immigration Agency statistics showed. The statistics also showed that 600 applications were filed by Hong Kong residents in the first quarter of this year — three times the number filed in the same period last year — with applicants apparently not deterred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just one day after it was reported that the Chinese government plans to enact new national security laws in Hong Kong, inquiries regarding immigration to Taiwan grew 10-fold, a Hong Kong-based immigration
‘BEGINNING OF THE END’: Democracy advocate Joshua Wong urged Hong Kongers to stand up and fight, and let the Chinese government know that they will not cave Hong Kong protesters yesterday battled with riot police in busy downtown areas, showing their opposition toward China’s dramatic move to crack down on dissent in the biggest demonstration since the coronavirus swept through the territory in January. Police deployed a water cannon and fired tear gas in the Causeway Bay shopping area after hundreds of protesters had gathered to oppose new national security legislation from China. Police warned the crowd they were taking part in an illegal gathering, and later said in a statement that “rioters threw umbrellas, water bottles and other objects at them.” At least 120 people were arrested,
‘TAIWAN IS SAFE’: As there have been no new local cases for 42 days, people should feel free to travel around the nation — as long as they follow disease prevention rules No new cases of COVID-19 were reported yesterday and only 20 of the people hospitalized after testing positive are still being treated in hospitals, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday in Pingtung County’s Kenting (墾丁) as he promoted a “new disease prevention lifestyle” for the nation. As yesterday was the 42nd consecutive day with no new domestic cases, and experts consider 28 consecutive days with no domestic case — the span of two incubation periods — a sign that a community is relatively safe, Taiwan is safe, said Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC),