Fri, Sep 30, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Cabinet approves nuclear power bill

WAKE-UP CALL:The amendment came when the Atomic Energy Council reviewed the act after a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

The Cabinet yesterday approved an amendment to the Nuclear Damage Compensation Act (核子損害賠償法) that imposes on nuclear power operators heavier compensation liability in the event of natural disasters such as an earthquake or a typhoon.

Under the amendment, the maximum amount of compensation for losses caused by a nuclear accident was increased from NT$4.2 billion (US$138 million) to NT$15 billion and the allowed period for compensation claims was extended from 10 to 30 years.

The amendment came after the Atomic Energy Council reviewed the act, which had not been amended since it was first enacted in 1997, in the wake of the nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was damaged by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake on March 11.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said the amendment fell short of her expectations as she had suggested further lifting the ceiling on compensation liability.

“In the case of the [Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant], Tokyo Electric Power Co prepared ¥2 trillion [US$26 billion] for its compensation liabilities, but it was estimated by the government that it needed to pay at least ¥7 trillion,” Tien said.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday also approved an amendment to the Labor Safety and Health Act (勞工安全衛生法) that extends the scope of protection from NT$6.7 million to NT$10.67 million by including those not previously covered by the act — self-employed persons, voluntary workers and apprentices.

Under the amendment, the maximum fine for petrochemical industry and factories in which chemicals are stocked in cases of explosions was increased from NT$300,000 to NT$30 million, an article dubbed the “sixth naphtha cracking plant clause.”

The sixth naphtha cracking plant in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County, owned by Formosa Plastics Group, came under fire for its poor safety record after it experienced seven major or minor fires this year alone.

Fu Huan-jan (傅還然), chief of the Department of Labor Safety and Health, said increasing the penalty was aimed at high-risk manufacturers who need to improve their safety management systems.

The amendment also requires high-risk manufacturers to conduct risk assessments of working conditions on a regular basis, Fu said.

Should the amendment pass the legislature, the Council of Labor Affairs would establish an examination system under which it can deny permission for the import of machines, equipment, appliances or chemicals that do not meet with its safety standards, Fu said.

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