Tue, Apr 05, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Taipower’s ‘dirty’ nuclear plants raise concerns

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

Contact dose rates on the suppression chamber liner at the conclusion of the cleaning work showed a significant decrease in radiation levels, from 10 millisieverts per hour to more than 80 millisieverts per hour (or the equivalent of 800 chest X-rays) before work to 0.15 millisieverts per hour to 2 millisieverts per hour after its conclusion, the report said, a sign that the foreign material removed was highly radioactive.

While most foreign materials were removed, the area from panels 14 through 19 (of a total of 34) were not cleaned because of the high dose rates of 50 millisieverts per hour to more than 80 millisieverts per hour.

John Wang (王重章), an official at state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電), which operates the nation’s nuclear power plants, confirmed to the Taipei Times that UCC could not complete its cleaning work because of high radiation in some areas of the annulus base.

Removal of rust staining at numerous areas throughout the annulus floor and walls could only be done partially, again because of high radioactive dose rates, the report said.

Commenting on the report by UCC, Greenspan said Taipower had dropped the ball on maintenance.

“The pools had never been cleaned ... Lots of silt [should not be there]. High radiation [should not be that high] and lots of debris [should not be there],” he said.

“It is my understanding the UCC crew did not finish because of extremely high radiation doses,” Greenspan said.

“A radiation worker, including divers, is only allowed so much radiation per year. Once a radiation worker or diver hits that limit, [it means] no more work in a nuclear plant,” he said.

“Because the plant was so dirty, the divers from UCC — and I don’t blame them — essentially decided not to dive anymore so they could continue working at other plants. They have families to support and do not want to be out of work because Taipower cannot do proper maintenance,” he said.

Another important point was the amount of radioactive garbage that had to be disposed of, Greenspan said.

“Hundreds of pounds of debris, and hundreds upon hundreds of the sediment filters, all highly radioactive, because Taipower will not follow proper protocol,” he said.

“Most nuclear plants are more akin to a surgical center, very neat, regulated and clean. Taipower plants are more like the back room of a lousy auto parts store. If the Fukushima situation happened at the Guosheng plant, I am sure it would have been way worse, much faster,” he said.

Taiwan’s first two nuclear power plants use reactors — water boiler reactors (BWR) — similar to those at Fukushima Dai-ichi, while Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Ma-anshan (馬鞍山), Pingtung County, uses a more stable, and reportedly safer, pressurized water reactor (PWR).

The first two plants use different containment designs, Mark-I and Mark-III respectively. Five of the six reactors at Fukushima use a Mark-I design.

Asked if Taipower had completed the cleanup at Guosheng after UCC and Midco failed to finish their work, Wang said the suppression pools were cleaned by a Taiwanese company, Fuermosha Co (福爾摩沙公司).

The cleanup of the vent annulus and the suppression pools at the first and second reactors at Guosheng is complete and no silt remains, he said on March 30.

As to when similar work had been done at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in Shihmen District (石門), New Taipei City, Wang said US company S.G. Pinney had used divers to clean the suppression chamber at reactors one and two in 1999 and 2000 respectively.

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