Sat, Sep 20, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Taipower's openness questioned

SPARKS FLY Legislators and environmentalists said yesterday they had never seen the whole contract with the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant's designer

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of the Nuclear 4 Referendum Initiative Association display the group's new flyer that explains the issues of a referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant at a press conference yesterday. The press conference was also held to mark the group's 10th anniversary.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Legislators and environmentalists, who suspect that safety concerns have been disregarded in the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, yesterday criticized what they described as a lack of transparency in contracts connected to the construction of the plant.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清) said yesterday at a public hearing held in the Legislative Yuan that an additional budget proposal by the state-run Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) would probably be turned down, not only by himself, but also by colleagues with environmental concerns.

According to Taipower's approved budget, NT$169.7 billion was allocated for the plant in 1992. An additional NT$52.3 billion is now needed because of changes in the nation's power capacity, the depreciation of the NT dollar and because construction was halted in late 2000.

Jao said continuing with construction was not worthwhile at all, because Taipower's lack of transparency increases the risks involved in running the nuclear power plant.

"We do have problems approving the budget, because we haven't even been able to get a look at the entire contract signed between Taipower and the plant's designer, US-based General Electric (GE)," Jao said.

Jao said many problems emerged when construction was still underway at the plant. Accidents have also occurred in similar plants in Japan. "Taipower should eliminate questionable points raised by the public on nuclear safety issues," Jao said.

At the meeting, Masuro Sugai, an economics professor of Kokugakuin University in Japan, talked about problems experienced at a nuclear power plant in Kashiwazaki.

Sugai said Taipower should learn from Japan's experiences, because the reactor in Kashiwazaki, an advanced boiling water reactor, is of the same type as the one planned for Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

Daisuke Sato (佐藤大介), a representative of the No Nukes Asia Forum, expressed his regret that Japan would be exporting nuclear reactors to Taiwan.

Two reactors planned for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant are built by Japanese firms, Toshiba and Hitachi.

According to Lai Wei-chieh (賴偉傑), secretary-general of the Green Citizens' Action Alliance, the contract seems unequal, because Taipower paid GE engineers to come to Taiwan to solve problems with the construction.

"Taipower should fight for the public's rights when encountering problems resulting from bad design by GE," Lai said.

Hou Ming-liang (侯明亮), deputy of director of Taipower's Nuclear Engineering Department, said the Japanese activists' accusations went too far, because some problems have been caused by Japanese power suppliers.

"We won't have the same risks ... because materials and technologies we use here are better than those used in Japan," Hou said.

In addition, Hou said, a taskforce has been established to examine all operational nuclear reactors in Taiwan after a series of nuclear accidents occurred in Japan in September last year.

As for the contract, he said, GE offers a three-year guarantee for the first three years of commercial operation.

The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is scheduled to start supplying electricity in Jul. 2006.

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