The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) expressed doubt about the current construction and test-run conditions at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), at the council’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant Safety Monitoring Committee meeting held on Friday, suggesting that construction should be halted if no improvement is made.
The country’s fourth nuclear power plant project was authorized in the 1980s and construction began in 1999. However, the project has seen several construction delays, frozen budgets, test-run accidents and censure from the Control Yuan.
The AEC, in charge of monitoring the developer of the nuclear power plants — state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電), held a safety monitoring meeting on Friday during which recent conditions at the plant were discussed.
Talks centered on a provisional agenda brought up by committee member Lin Tsung-yao (林宗堯), a former engineer at General Electric Co.
On Thursday, Lin penned a nearly 5,000-word letter detailing several problems at the power plant, including issues with the initial design, procurement problems leading to missed deadlines, hasty construction, tests run by inexperienced personnel and ineffective monitoring mechanisms by oversight bodies.
Lin’s suggestion to discuss these problems led to heated discussion among the AEC committee members, Taipower and legislators at the meeting.
Lin expressed concern about how Taipower had overseen the fourth plant’s construction and testing processes, citing the use of several contractors, scheduling issues leading to out-of-date instruments and the contracting of employees who had little experience.
He questioned the safety of such conditions.
“It [the construction project] is contracted by three companies, and they each do testing before being brought to the power plant for assembly. This is unheard of,” he said. “Who will be in charge of the test-run, and with what procedures?”
Lin, saying that airlines always ask veteran pilots do test flights, said that the people running the tests at the nuclear power plant were inexperienced.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) also questioned the safety of the plant if it were to go into operation.
Department of Nuclear Regulation director Chen Yi-pin (陳宜彬) was doubtful of the current management and construction conditions, and said with the way problems are being handled now, Taipower’s hopes to finish construction in three years are a “pie in the sky.”
“It may be best for construction to be halted now,” said Chen, adding that if they had halted the project three years ago, they could have saved much more money.
In defense of the company, Taipower vice chairman Huang Hsien-chang (黃憲章) said: “Taipower is already constructing the seventh and eighth reactors at the fourth plant, so, don’t underestimate the capability of Taipower.”
“Each facility is basically designed to completion and is assembled according to procedures on-site and tested on-site,” he said.
Taiwpower said in a statement yesterday that it would be “open-minded” about undergoing inspections and monitoring from different parties, as well as a complete inspection of the plant.
The fuel rods will not be put in place until safety can be assured, it said.
The Green Citizens Action Alliance urged the AEC to make more information public about the nuclear power plants, so that the people can help monitor the construction process.
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