Fri, Aug 19, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Nuclear official resigned over lax safety, DPP says

By Jake Chung  /  Staff Writer

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday traded allegations over the resignation of Atomic Energy Council (AEC) Deputy Minister Shieh Der-jhy (謝得志).

KMT caucus whip Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲) said Shieh did not quit because of problems at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, but because he was unable to adapt to the political culture at the council. However, DPP caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said Shieh’s departure highlighted rampant problems at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant because he doubled as chairman of the project’s Safety Oversight Committee.

The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) yesterday reported that Shieh had tendered his resignation in March, but had stayed on as deputy minister at the request of Atomic Energy Council Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻). He resigned again on Wednesday because of recent safety issues at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the paper reported.

During a trial run of the emergency core cooling system on Tuesday, reactor one met with a dual man-made failure — a pipe in the water coolant system was undergoing maintenance when the trial began, so water being transmitted from lower levels to the reactor leaked out, causing a 30cm flood of the generator’s sump pit. Exacerbating the problem was the fact that no sign was in place warning of the maintenance work.

Thorough examinations of all pipelines had not been carried out, causing coolant liquid supposedly going to the reactor core to gush out of a control valve, which had been sent for repairs without the posting of a sign saying “Do Not Operate” as per the regulations.

However, Chao said Shieh had resigned after a Fourth Nuclear Power Plant Safety Oversight Committee meeting held last week because several legislators had asked to participate.

After committee members said the legislators could participate, Shieh traveled south on business and gave his aides instructions to notify the legislators’ offices, but his aides missed out a few legislators, causing officials to express discontent with Shieh.

Some legislators heavily criticized Shieh, Chao said, adding that the deputy minister had become tired of the job and resigned on the grounds that he was a scientist, not a politician.

However, DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said that Shieh’s resignation was to do with his suggestion that construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant be halted.

Saying that a committee headed by Shieh had earlier suggested that construction be halted if Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) could not give a practical proposal by the end of the year on how to fix problems at the plant. Chen said the committes’s suggestion had been quashed by Shieh’s superiors.

DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said the relationship between the AEC and Taipower was like “a mother-in-law who can’t control her wild daughter-in-law,” adding that whether Shieh was forced to resign or left of his own accord, it showed that the AEC could neither control Taipower nor give guarantees to the public over safety.

Tsai said the plant should not be built if safety could not be guaranteed. Halting construction was better than gambling with the lives of 23 million people, he said.

Shieh said yesterday his personal ideals did not fit with the AEC position.

“Being an administrative official causes a lot of feelings — you feel the baggage lift off your shoulders when you leave the post,” he said.

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