Tue, Mar 22, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Ma lacks gear to protect against nuclear fallout

NOT PREPARED:The National Security Bureau admitted that it lacked sufficient protective gear in case of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack on the Presidential Office

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter, with CNA

The National Security Bureau (NSB) yesterday said it did not have enough equipment to protect the Presidential Office against a nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

To make up for the shortcoming, the bureau said it had sent personnel to train at the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) to increase its ability to protect the president, NSB Deputy Director--General Lin Hui-yang (林惠陽) told the legislature.

The acknowledgment came after local media reported that the bureau lacked equipment and strategies to protect the president against multiple disasters, such as the ones faced by Japan after the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Meanwhile, a legislator asked whether the military would activate radiation detection devices aboard Lafayette and Kidd-class warships in the wake of local media reports of a possible leakage of radioactive material from the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in Shihmen District (石門), New Taipei City (新北市).

Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱), who also attended the legislative session, said the ministry had switched on the devices on March 12.

The vessels have been monitoring northeastern coastal areas of Taiwan since Tuesday last week, Kao said.

So far, all the data collected by the ministry have been within AEC standards, he said.

Meanwhile, Kao also confirmed that the army’s Chemical Corps would likely be cut as part of the government’s plan to streamline military personnel.

Media reports yesterday revealed that as many as 20 percent of Taiwan’s more than 2,000 chemical specialists could be laid off or reassigned as the ministry moves to close three support groups in the coming years.

The military plans to trim total military personnel to 215,000 from the current 275,000 as it moves toward an all-volunteer force and phases out one-year conscription, a recent report from the Control Yuan showed.

“It isn’t possible to spare every single type of military personnel from the streamlining plan,” Kao said. “It’s [more important] that reserves be quickly called up in times of need.”

“The cutbacks will be comprehensive,” he said.

The concerns about the cutback to chemical specialists were raised after the key role they played in screening inbound passengers from Japan for possible traces of radioactive contamination.

On Thursday, the military conducted radioactive response exercises modeled on a scenario whereby radioactivity or nuclear fallout were detected in Taiwan’s atmosphere.

A report in the Chinese--language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) said the army’s Chemical Corps currently maintain three bases, each with a support group in northern, central and southern Taiwan.

The support groups, which were created after the SARS outbreak in 2003, would be the first to be cut under the plan, the Liberty Times reported.

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