Wed, Mar 05, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Error blamed for mishap at reactor

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) said yesterday that an accident involving a falling bundle of fuel rods at a nuclear power plant in northern Taiwan on Monday was caused by human error, and demanded that the operator, Taiwan Power Company (Taipower,台電), release the names of the people responsible for the mishap.

Taipower officials reported details of the accident to the AEC, the nation's nuclear watchdog, yesterday morning.

According to Taipower, the accident occurred on Monday at the Second Nuclear Power Plant, Taipei County, where a routine maintenance exercise was launched on Feb. 24.

Operators must replace one fourth of the more than 400 bundles of fuel rods in a boiling-water reactor every 18 months.

Early Monday morning, as operators were transferring bundles of fuel rods from a boiling-water reactor to a water pool for spent fuel rods, one of the bundles fell from a 4m-high bridge.

The consequent turbulence in the water pool triggered a radiation alarm, which prompted an immediate evacuation of workers. Taipower officials, however, said the accident caused no radiation fallout either inside or outside the plant.

"Our initial investigation suggests that the accident can be attributed to human error resulting from sloppy maintenance work," said Shen Li (沈禮), director of the AEC's department of nuclear regulation.

Shen said that technicians failed to notice that a structure connected to the bridge was out of order.

The AEC ordered Taipower to produce a list of people who deserve punishment. The AEC also ordered Taipower to halt maintenance work at the site until the company submits a report on its plans to prevent a repeat of this kind of accident.

Taipower officials said they will submit the report within days.

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