This year will be the most crucial year in the fight to abolish nuclear power in Taiwan, anti-nuclear groups said at a forum in Taipei yesterday, citing reasons that included the possible insertion of fuel rods in the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮).
“Other reasons are that since the [three] active nuclear plants are fast approaching their planned retirement dates and the government is always stalling on its promises to decommission the plants, the problem of nuclear waste treatment could become a tipping point this year,” Wang Chung-ming (王鐘銘), a member of the Northern Coast Anti-Nuclear Action Alliance’s executive committee, told the forum hosted by the National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform.
Wang said activists fear the government may try to extend the active plants’ operational life span.
He said that Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) has already extended the original capacity of the spent fuel pools at the three active plants by increasing storage density. The capacity of the pool at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Shihmen District (石門) was extended from 3,030 bundles to 5,514, while the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Wanli District (萬里) had its 5,040-bundle capacity pool raised to 7,544 and the pool at the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Pingtung County’s Ma-anshan (馬鞍山) went from handling 1,492 bundles to 2,328.
On Saturday, Taipower announced that the spent fuel pool at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant will meet its storage capacity at the end of the year, so it urgently needs the government to approve its plan to build a dry-storage facility.
However, Wang said that Taipower is merely trying to force the government and the public to approve the dry-storage facility.
He added that dry cask storage of spent fuel is not only controversial, because the feasibility of taking spent fuel rods from the pools are a safety concern, but also that it is doubtful that the proposed facility — which is meant to be used for mid-term storage — will not eventually be made into a final disposal site, given that Taipower has broken its promises many times in the past.
“Taipower bounced its checks on removing low-level radioactive waste from Lanyu (蘭嶼), which was originally planned for 2002, then extended to 2016 and last year once again pushed back to 2021,” Wang said. “If Taipower cannot deal with low-level radioactive waste disposal, how can we trust it to properly deal with spent nuclear fuel?”
Green Citizens’ Action Alliance director-general Lai Wei-chieh (賴偉傑) said it is frustrating to see how the government “threatens the public and shirks its responsibility” to continue using nuclear power, rather than developing alternative energy policies.
Lai said anti-nuclear groups are worried that fuel rods will be inserted at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant as part of test runs during the safety inspections currently being conducted by the Atomic Energy Council that Taipower has said will be completed by June.
Moreover, even though the council has not approved Taipower’s ultimate response measures, the company and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) have already promised the public that a nuclear disaster can be prevented in the event of an emergency situation, Lai said.
“The government should devise institutional electricity-saving measures, such as dispersing electricity demand during peak hours, or improving power usage effectiveness, rather than morally pressuring the public to save electricity,” he said.