Wed, May 18, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan holds nuclear safety drill

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff Reporter

Firefighters put out a fire during an earthquake response drill at the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District, New Taipei City, yesterday.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Taiwan held its first compounded nuclear disaster drill yesterday, with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) looking on as emergency responders shifted into gear at the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District (萬里), New Taipei City (新北市).

The exercise, organized by Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) and the New Taipei City Fire Department, also involved staff at the nuclear plant.

The scenario of the drill was based on the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis that has haunted Japan since March 11, the day a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami devastated the country’s northeast.

The exercise presumed a magnitude 8 earthquake at a depth of 10km, with the epicenter located 342km northeast of the plant. A tsunami between 15m and 20m in height was assumed to have hit the coast.

Taipower officials said that in the worst-case scenario of a total power outage at the plant, they would make saving lives the top priority by abandoning the plant and injecting seawater to prevent a meltdown of the nuclear core.

The scenario included a fire alarm system that broke down after the earthquake, cascading power failures, as well as malfunctions in the reactor and the cooling pool for spent fuel, resulting in overheating fuel rods, which can cause a hydrogen explosion and excessive radiation leakage.

White foam was sprayed from fire trucks to put out a fire while responders in radiation protection suits assessed radiation levels near the site.

Following the fire simulation, responders demonstrated how water would be injected into the reactor and cooling pool by using fire trucks.

Although Taiwan’s geological environment is not the same as Japan’s, firm precautionary measures need to be in place, Ma said, adding that regular practice was needed to ensure proper and timely response to earthquakes.

“In the short term, Taiwan cannot be without nuclear energy. As such, nuclear safety must be our priority,” he said.

Ma gave the first day of the exercise a very positive grade. The drill continues today, this time with a focus on evacuation and temporary accommodation of nearby residents.

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