The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) yesterday requested a detailed list of issues to be addressed to ensure construction safety at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), by the end of this year.
State-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) must put forward a proposal by the end of this year for making structural changes to the plant to ensure that safe operations at the plant will be possible, said Chen Yi-pin (陳宜彬), head of the council’s Department of Nuclear Regulations.
Chen called on Taipower to bring in foreign experts to help with safety improvements, adding: “Without doing this, questions regarding when the company will be able to begin loading fuel rods into the core of the nuclear reactor will remain indeterminate.”
Taipower has no expertise in this regard, he said.
Chen, Atomic Energy Council Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) and State-owned Enterprise Commission Executive Director Liu Ming-chung (劉明忠) were invited by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers to answer questions at the legislature following media reports that the council had suggested construction at the plant be halted because of safety concerns.
KMT Legislator Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲) asked the council why it did not make the suggestion earlier, when the project was under review following the nuclear crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in March.
The legislature in June approved an additional NT$14 billion (US$484 million) budget for the plant added to the initial NT$264.4 billion cost of the project, which began in 1997.
Tsai and Chen told a press conference that while construction would not necessarily have to come to a complete stop, they had identified a number of areas of concern with the project, adding that questions remained regarding safety.
The fuel rods are scheduled to be installed next April.
The council on Friday held a Fourth Nuclear Power Plant Safety Monitoring Committee meeting, in which Lin Tsung-yao (林宗堯), a former engineer at General Electric Co, presented a 5,000-character letter detailing several problems.
“We never demanded Taipower halt construction completely. The issue was discussed at the meeting, but there was no conclusion. There are many ways to regulate Taipower and halting construction would be a last resort,” Tsai said.
The council said in a press release that halting construction was different from completely shutting down the project. It said it would only consider halting construction if no improvements were made.
Sectional halts have been imposed when flaws have been found during inspections and fines have also been imposed, but demanding a halt to the entire project has not done before, the council said.
Additional reporting by Lee I-chia