Mon, Oct 22, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Scientist warns of dangers of Taiwan nuclear mishap

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

A Japanese nuclear scientist and researcher says that if a nuclear accident occurred at one of northern Taiwan’s nuclear power plants, about 30,000 people would die within a short period of time and up to 7 million people could develop cancer from exposure to the nuclear radiation.

Hiroaki Koide, a nuclear reactor specialist who has been an assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute since 1974, spoke yesterday at a civic nuclear-free forum and met environmental protection groups in Taipei over the weekend.

During his speech, he said Taiwan has one of the highest densities of nuclear power plants in the world, which is why he chose to give his first overseas speech on nuclear issues in the country.

“Constructing nuclear power plants in Taiwan is very dangerous,” he said, stressing that the population density in northern Taiwan is so high that it would be very difficult to evacuate people if a nuclear accident were to occur at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市).

“The evacuation efficiency in northern Taiwan is virtually zero,” he said.

According to nuclear accident simulations he has run, people living in Taipei and New Taipei City’s (新北市) Yonghe (永和), Jhonghe (中和), Banciao (板橋), Sanchong (三重), Lujhou (蘆洲) and Pingsi (平溪) would all be directly affected by radiation, leading to an estimated 30,000 deaths in the first month after any such incident and up to 7 million possibly dying of cancer in the following years.

Nuclear power plants are not designed to be constructed on fault zones, he said, adding that Taiwan and Japan are both countries which suffer frequent seismic activity.

Therefore, it is very dangerous to have plants built on unstable strata, especially when operating power plants in Taiwan are considered old and the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, which is under construction, is being assembled using components from different manufacturers.

Japan used to have high hopes for nuclear power, but since it began relying on it electricity prices have not dropped as much as predicted and the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis last year has exposed many people to nuclear radiation, he said, adding “regrets will come too late if an accident occurs.”

He also suggested that if Taiwan can increase electricity generation from other power sources, it should close its existing nuclear power plants and halt the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

James Kuo (郭國榮), an engineer with 25 years of experience working on nuclear power at General Electric, also participated in the forum. He recently visited the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and said the nation still lacks professionalism in managing nuclear power, adding that the government often misleads people by saying that nuclear power is a cheap means of generating electricity.

“Nuclear power may be cheaper, but operating costs and maintenance are more expensive, so hydroelectric power, wind power and even coal-fired power are all cheaper in the long-term than nuclear power,” he said.

Koide also met with an environmental protection group yesterday to exchange thoughts and experiences on nuclear power issues before leaving Taiwan.

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