Authorities yesterday attempted to ease fears of a Japan-style crisis at the nearly completed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) ahead of a mass protest this weekend.
The state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) faces an uphill battle to persuade the public that its nuclear facilities are safe after a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, crippling the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
In a similar situation as Japan, Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.
Two opinion polls in March showed a majority of Taiwanese oppose the new plant. Demonstrators plan a rally on Sunday calling for the government to abandon the project, which Taipower said cost more than NT$280 billion (US$9.4 billion) and is more than 90 percent completed.
“We have learned many lessons from the Fukushima incident. We have improved on the safety measures to ensure that a similar incident will not happen in Taiwan,” Taipower vice president Chen Pu-tsan (陳布燦) said.
Taipower has spent NT$10.2 billion on additional safety measures at the plant, including plans to build a 14.5m anti-tsunami dyke and install additional generators.
This month, a team of 45 Taiwanese and 12 international experts began a six-month inspection of the plant to test its systems and review safety.
“Even if an earthquake and tsunami of the same magnitude that struck Fukushima were to hit Taiwan, it would not have affected the fourth nuclear plant,” Chen said.
The three existing nuclear plants supply about 20 percent of Taiwan’s electricity. Construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant started in 1999, but has been repeatedly delayed by political wrangling.
Taipower says the country will face power shortages without a new nuclear plant. The Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in Shihmen District (石門), New Taipei City, and the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District (萬里), New Taipei City, as well as several other power stations are due to be retired in the near future.