Tue, Apr 17, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Council urged to keep reactor offline

‘LIGHT AND CASUAL’:Lawmakers accused Taipower of not being serious in explaining why seven anchor bolts for a reactor at Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant were damaged

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party legislators Yao Wen-chih, left, and Tien Chiu-chin, center, with Green Consumers’ Foundation chairman Jay Fang, hold a press conference outside the legislature in Taipei yesterday, calling on the government to suspend the operation of the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District, New Taipei City, to allow a safety inspection.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Environmental protection groups and legislators yesterday urged the Atomic Energy Council to reject a proposal by Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) to resume operations at the No. 1 reactor of the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District (萬里), New Taipei City (新北市), saying that it should first explain why seven anchor bolts of the reactor were damaged.

During a temporary shutdown on March 16 for routine maintenance of the reactor, problems were discovered with some of the anchor bolts used to secure the bottom of the reactor to the steel-reinforced concrete substrate.

One was broken, two were fractured and four were cracked.

Taiwan Environmental Protection Union secretary-general Lee Cho-han (李卓翰) said they questioned Taipower’s credibility when it said that after having reactor designer General Electric replace six bolts and conduct ultrasonic tests on the other 113 anchor bolts — of which 60 are on the inner rim and 60 on the outer — the reactor was safe to resume operations.

Green Citizens’ Action Alliance secretary-general Tsui Shu-hsin (崔愫欣) said “Taipower’s rehabilitation plan isn’t complete” because the anchor bolts are fundamental components and are designed to have the same life expectancy as the reactor, so the cause of the broken bolts should be examined in case the same problem occurs on the other 113 anchor bolts.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said Taipower’s explanation that the fractured anchor bolts resulted from long-term stress was unreasonable, because none of the anchor bolts were found to be fractured in the previous maintenance checks.

Green Consumers’ Foundation chairman Jay Fang (方儉) said the broken bolts might reflect metal fatigue of components in the reactor that has operated for more than 30 years, and a resumption of operations could shorten the lifespan of the reactor from overwork.

“Taipower said one of the anchor bolts had not been replaced because it was at a sensitive location in the reactor, but this is like telling us that all but one broken screw bolt in a tire frame was fixed and that it’s safe to drive the car,” Tien said, adding that nuclear safety was a matter of safety for everyone in Taiwan.

Tien said an administrative hearing on the case should be held so that the cause can be clarified and the information made public.

“Regardless of whether one supports or opposes nuclear power, its safety is the most important issue,” Lee said, adding that they would recruit people to launch protests on a larger scale if the reactor resumes operation before their questions are answered.

At the legislature, council and Taipower officials reported the matter of the anchor bolts at the Education and Culture Committee.

Taipower president Lee Han-shen (李漢申) said the cause of the fractured anchor bolts had yet to be determined and that the six replaced bolts had been sent to the council for analysis.

Describing the reports by the council and Taipower as “touching on the light and casual,” while “avoiding the important matters and dwelling on the trivial,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Nai-shin (蔣乃辛) said that problems with seven out of 60 anchor bolts were not a trivial matter.

Chiang said he worried the agencies were hiding the problems from the public.

Questioned by several legislators from different political parties about what they described as the council’s passive attitude to monitoring Taipower’s nuclear safety and slow reactions to abnormal phenomena at the power plants, council Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) said that because there was no precedent for such defects, he could not say how long it would take to fix the problem.

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