Sun, Mar 27, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Wu downplays nuclear safety fears

DIFFERENCE OF OPINION:DPP presidential hopeful Tsai Ing-wen has questioned the safety of the nation’s nuclear plants and promised to phase out nuclear energy by 2025

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Ko Shu-ling  /  Staff Reporters

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday downplayed a Wall Street Journal report that cast doubt on the safety of the nation’s nuclear power plants in the wake of the nuclear crisis in Japan, adding that the government would launch a comprehensive review of the safety of nuclear power plants ahead of schedule as part of efforts to alleviate public fears.

“We need to work harder to [enhance nuclear power plant safety], but people should not be affected by media reports and forget the fact that we have had a good safety record over the past 20 years,” Wu said when questioned by reporters.

The Journal published a report on March 19 saying the paper looked at the locations of more than 400 existing nuclear power plants and another 100 that are either planned or being built, and determined the earthquake risk at each plant.

Based on data from the -London-based World Nuclear Association as well as a 1999 study by the US Geological Survey and the Swiss -Seismological Service, the paper said that nearly 100 nuclear reactors operate in earthquake-prone regions around the world, and most of those plants are in Japan and Taiwan.

The six nuclear reactors at Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in Shihmen (石門), New Taipei City (新北市), Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli (萬里), New Taipei City, and Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Ma-anshan (馬鞍山), Pingtung County, are all located in high-hazard earthquake areas, according to the Journal report.

“Thirty-four, or 8 percent of the world’s total, are in areas of high activity. Of those, 24 are in Japan and six are in Taiwan, and 17 are located within a mile of a coastline, making them at risk for both earthquakes and tsunamis,” it said.

Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant and Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant are two of the 17 within a mile of coastline.

The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant under construction is also in a high-hazard earthquake zone.

Wu yesterday questioned the methodology used in the analysis, saying that the criteria used to -determine risk was something that needed to be looked into.

Taiwan is located on a more stable fault line than Japan’s islands are, he added.

Wu said Taiwanese feel more confident in the country’s nuclear power plants because they have had good safety records since they began operation.

Separately, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said there was no easy answer to nuclear policy and that nuclear safety -outweighed everything else.

Although Taiwan has wind power, solar energy and geothermal power, the nation has very limited natural resources like fossil fuel, he said.

“So nuclear energy is important to us,” he said. “When we are mapping out nuclear policy, we must take all sources of energy available into consideration. We must figure out how to integrate them and the best policy must be suitable to Taiwan and give consideration to the economy, carbon reduction and safety. So there is no easy answer.”

“The most important thing at the moment is to find out where we need to do more, so all the nuclear power facilities are safer,” he added.

A few days after Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami that sparked radiation leaks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, Ma said Taiwan’s nuclear policy would remain unchanged and that it was not necessary to shut down the nation’s three nuclear power plants. The construction of the fourth nuclear power plant must also continue, he said, but it must be reinforced.

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