Wed, Mar 06, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Nuclear Power Debate: Lawmakers cite nine problems at plant

NUMBERS GAME:A spokesman for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant acknowledged five of the problems, but said they have either been resolved or are being addressed

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Ho Hsin-chun holds an enlarged page from a nuclear accident emergency response booklet at the legislature in Taipei yesterday, asking why it gives the crisis area a radius of just 5km.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Listing nine major problems at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said the government should address safety issues before rushing into a referendum on the fate of the plant.

DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said that the party has found at least nine safety flaws at the plant that could result in nuclear accidents if they are not resolved.

Three of the most serious flaws found are: poor welding on more than 50 percent of a reactor’s pressure vessel; the touch panel in the control room reflects light and may be touched off accidentally during emergencies; and a digital control system that integrates 13 separate systems and links more than 40,000 signals into one system.

Moreover, the signal lights in the plant’s control room use three colors — purple, blue and white — unlike the easier-to-read red and green lights at Japan’s nuclear plants, Lin said, adding that people tend to act on instinct during emergencies and the three-color signals are too complicated.

The other flaws are: seriously damaged emergency standby generators; temperatures could exceed the dry well’s capacity, causing a radiation leak; more than 1,400 substandard ground wires; walls containing penetration pipes are not thick enough and the aperture does not close properly, which may cause radiation to leak into the nearby water catchment area; and tests of the reactor’s internal pump so far have only reached 10 percent of the required testing time, Lin said.

In addition, the planned emergency evacuation sites are located near the coast, so residents would have nowhere to go in the event of an accident caused by a tsunami.

“Taiwan Power Co [Taipower] knows about the problems and is concealing them, the Atomic Energy Council [AEC] is neglecting its duty [to monitor nuclear safety] because it has identified some of the flaws and even asked [Taipower] to make improvements, but it did not enforce them,” he said.

DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said the party would ask officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, AEC and Taipower to report on the problems to the legislative committees, form examination groups in the committees to visit the plant and propose freezing Taipower’s promotional budget.

“Based on the principle of a fair battle, we propose freezing [Taipower’s] budget for promoting nuclear power to the public,” he said.

Taipower spokesman Roger Lee (李鴻洲) yesterday said that four of the nine problems cited do not exist and that the other five have been resolved or are being addressed.

A spokesman for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) acknowledged the problem with the touch panels and said local manufacturers have been asked to install screens on them to stop any glare.

The AEC has also instructed Taipower, which operates the nation’s nuclear plants, to implement a number of additional tsunami, flood and earthquake safety measures, the spokesman said.

These include expanding the emergency planning zones around the plant from the current 5km radius to 8km.

Additional reporting by CNA

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