Contradicting his previous pledge that the proposed referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) would not be held until the plant’s operational safety could be guaranteed, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday said he was not sure about the matter.
Jiang said he was unable to say with absolute certainty that the referendum would only be held once the facility passes a safety inspection because it is impossible to know how long a safety check would take, as they do not have a predetermined duration. In addition, the Central Election Commission, not the Cabinet, has the mandate to set the referendum date, he said.
Jiang made the remarks in response to media queries after he made a tour of the power plant yesterday and listened to a briefing on the safety inspection plan.
Jiang has reiterated on several occasions that it would not be necessary to stage a referendum if safe operation of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant remains a concern because in that case the government would not issue an operating license once it is completed and therefore it could not operate.
The change in Jiang’s position came after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said in a recent interview with the Chinese-language Apple Daily that the safety inspection and referendum should not be linked.
During the visit, representatives of Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電), the plant’s operator, sought to reassure Jiang and reporters that the Gongliao plant would be better able to withstand natural disasters than Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant — which experienced a meltdown after the March 11, 2011, tsunami and earthquake — in seven aspects.
Among those was a 48,000-tonne fresh water tank, which the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was not equipped with, that would hold enough water to cool the rectors for three days in an emergency scenario, Taipower said.
The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant also has two backup power sources in case of power outages, which the Japanese plant did not, it said.
Plant deputy general manager Lin Rong-yi (林榮宜), who has worked at power plants for 30 years, said he was unhappy that the plant’s design and construction had been labeled as “patchwork.”
“For those of us who specialize in nuclear technology, it’s called technology integration,” Lin said.
Any high-tech product, such as a nuclear power plant, is a synthesis of advanced technologies; even a smartphone is composed of components manufactured by many different firms, Lin said.