After being kept in a warehouse since 2003, the reactor pressure vessel for Unit One of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant was yesterday finally moved out of storage to be installed on its pedestal.
However, environmentalists expressed concern about the safety of the reactor component. They said that, during a visit last month with Japanese anti-nuclear activists to the plant in Gongliao Township, Taipei County, they noticed that the pressure vessel had started showing signs of rust, which they blamed on lax management.
Meanwhile, the Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) said yesterday that plans for the reactor to go into commercial operation by July next year would be indefinitely delayed.
The 1,007-tonne reactor pressure vessel was completed in 2001 by Babcock-Hitachi, a subcontractor of General Electric. It had been in the warehouse since June, 2003, after it was shipped from Japan. According to Taipower's original plans, construction of the reactor should have been completed by the end of last year.
Lin Yuan-te (林源得), deputy manager for Taipower's Lungmen Construction Office in Gongliao, confirmed yesterday that the vessel was brought to the construction site yesterday.
He said that the pressure vessel would be loaded onto its pedestal on Friday.
Another reactor will be installed in a few years at the power plant, which has a projected total capacity of 2,700MW.
Lin said that as of the end of last month, the plant was about 58 percent complete.
"Progress remains behind the original schedule. The original start-up date for the plant's first reactor, July 2006, will definitely be postponed," he said.
Lin said that the Executive Yuan is still reviewing Taipower's evaluation report on the delay, and that it remains uncertain how long the delay will be.
Meanwhile, anti-nuclear activists were skeptical about the safety of the first reactor owing to the rust that had accumulated on the pressure vessel.
"Before installation, Taipower should explain the massive rust build-up to both residents [of Gongliao Township] and the general public. We'd like to know if it would cause any problem," Lai Wei-chieh (賴偉傑), executive-general of the Green Citizens' Action Alliance, said yesterday.
Lai said that the presence of rust was just one of the examples showing Taipower's lax management with its sub-constructors. In June 2002, it was found that questionable materials were used in the construction of a reactor pedestal for the plant.
Lai said that the designs for the construction, which date to January 1998, should be reviewed and updated.
Lai said that the same type of reactor, an advanced boiling-water reactor (ABWR), was used in a nuclear power plant in Kashiwazaki, Japan, where several nuclear accidents have occurred. Due to persistent campaigning by the anti-nuclear movement, the latest ABWR reactor in Japan had been built under stricter criteria, such as incorporating a design more resistant to earthquakes.
Lin said yesterday that Taipower has been in close communication with people concerned about nuclear power for years and that all problems raised by the public have been fixed.