Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Fourth nuclear plant near active volcanoes: activists

DANGER ZONE New research points to more than 70 underwater volcanoes within an 80km radius of the site of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the activists said

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  STAFF REPORTER

Environmental activists yesterday urged the state-run Taiwan Power Co (台電) to stop construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, citing safety concerns amid findings that the site was in the vicinity of a number of active underwater volcanoes.

In a press conference held with Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), the activists — led by the non-profit Green Citizens' Action Alliance — presented a report showing that the site of the new nuclear power plant in Taipei County's Gongliao Township (貢寮) was within 20km of underwater volcanoes.

The author of the report, Lee Chao-shing (李昭興), the dean of science at National Taiwan Ocean University, said the data were not available when the original Environmental Impact Assessment took place three decades ago.

Lee called for the regulatory agencies to suspend construction and conduct an investigation into the matter.

Based on Lee's research, Gongliao Township is surrounded by more than 70 underwater volcanoes within an 80km radius. Among this group of volcanoes, 11 were found to be active, with the nearest located within 20km.

“Given the high concentration of active volcanoes, the vicinity is especially susceptible to tremors and quakes,” Lee said. “While there might not be an immediate danger, the area is definitely in need of monitoring and further investigation.

“No country in the world builds nuclear power plants at such a close distance to volcanoes,” Lee said, adding that the six non-active fault lines in the area could exacerbate the problem.

Japanese earthquake expert Takemoto Kazuyuki said the findings show a serious risk that can no longer be ignored.

“The location is just not suitable for nuclear technology,” Kazuyuki told the press conference.

He said Japan had already realized the scope of the problem during a 2007 earthquake that caused damage to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in central Japan. The plant is one of the largest nuclear generating stations in the world by net electrical power rating.

Last year, the Japanese government announced that it would prioritize the reinforcement of its nuclear power plants and increase earthquake resistance measures to above peak ground accelerations of 1.0g (gravity = 9.80 meters per second per second) for most plants. Its nuclear power plants, including Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, were designed to withstand accelerations of up to 0.6g, when the 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck.

Taiwan's Atomic Energy Council (AEC) data showed that the nation's three operating nuclear power plants are designed to withstand accelerations of up to 0.3g and 0.4g.

The fourth plant is designed to withstand 0.4g, a figure that Kazuyuki said was wholly inadequate.

“Taiwan and Japan are both earthquake prone countries ... Taiwan needs to do a better job reinforcing its power plants,” Kazuyuki said.

Construction of the power plant has been plagued by delays and accusations of ballooning costs.

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said last October that the first nuclear reactor of the plant wasn't expected to become operational until the end of 2011, later than its original plan of July this year.

In response to the activists' concerns, Chen Yi-bin (陳宜彬), the director of the AEC's Department of Nuclear Regulation, said in a telephone interview with the Taipei Times that it was “inappropriate” to compare existing power plants with those in Japan because of their unique geological positions.

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