Describing a strong earthquake that hit northern Taiwan on Wednesday as a warning, environmental groups yesterday urged the government not to consider extending the retirement schedule of the nation’s operational nuclear power plants.
The intensity of Wednesday’s earthquake startled many Taipei residents. It measured magnitude 4 on Yangmingshan and magnitude 3 in New Taipei City (新北市), and the Central Weather Bureau’s data showed the epicenter of the quake was in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林).
The Green Citizens’ Action Alliance (GCAA), along with 18 other NGOs, released a joint statement saying that the rare earthquake centered in Taipei is a warning and a reminder to the government about the risk of nuclear power plants being damaged by natural disasters.
“During the earthquake that day, some of us worried that the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant or the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant [both in New Taipei City] were damaged by the quake,” GCAA secretary-general Hung Shen-han (洪申翰) said.
“If the plants were damaged or stopped operating because of the quake, the damage to Taiwan would be far greater than that caused by earthquakes,” he added.
After the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011, the government had announced an energy policy that included “no expansion of the retirement of currently operating nuclear plants, and planning of operating nuclear plants’ retirement according to regulations,” Hung said.
However, he added, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has said several times this year that if the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant cannot go into operation, then extending the three operating plants’ retirement may be an option to avoid possible power shortages.
Using a number of geologists’ survey reports to back up their claims, the groups said all three operating nuclear plants are built near fault lines and the Shanchiao Fault (山腳斷層) in northern Taiwan was recently found to be longer than previously thought — meaning that it may cause larger earthquakes than previously assumed.
They said data collected from nuclear power plants around the world have shown that accidents most often occur at the initial and late stages of a nuclear power plant’s operational lifespan, and the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant is now in its 36th year — much older than the average nuclear power plant retirement age of 28 years.
“Since old houses pose a danger, aren’t old nuclear power plants even more dangerous?” Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association attorney Tsai Ya-ying (蔡雅瀅) said, adding that while the city government plans urban renewal to mitigate disasters and prevent dangerous situations caused by old buildings, it should also retire the old nuclear plants in accordance with the original plans.
The groups urged the government to strictly enforce the retirement plans of the operating nuclear power plants, re-evaluate energy policies and stop threatening the public with claims of possible power shortages.
The GCAA announced that it would hold a live concert titled “No Nukes! Long Play” at Legacy Taipei, in which artists would raise their voices against nuclear power from 3pm to 11pm on Feb. 22.