State-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) yesterday said it is confident about the structural safety of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, after a government consultant expressed concerns over the quality of the controversial plant’s constrcution.
US contractor General Electric (GE), which is working on the facility in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮), has many years experience in the field, Taipower said, adding that it has full confidence in GE’s competence.
GE has been working on advanced boiling water reactor development since the 1990s, in cooperation with Japan’s Hitachi and Toshiba corporations, Taipower said in a statement.
Taipower said GE has been asked to push Taipower’s downstream vendors harder to improve efficiency and problem-solving.
The Atomic Energy Council approved a newly formed engineering organization to take over the design work being carried out by Boston-based Stone and Webster Engineering, Taipower said.
Before Stone and Webster pulled out of the project in 2007, it had completed the safety designs for balancing the plant’s systems, the statement said.
Taipower said it is trying to resolve system interface and construction issues without changing the original safety designs.
The statement was issued after Lin Tsung-yao (林宗堯), a recently hired consultant on the plant’s safety monitoring committee, posted a report on Facebook on Wednesday last week detailing a number of problems with construction.
Lin questioned the quality of GE’s structural designs and its building schedule, saying that because of those issues, Taipower had failed to meet a project deadline.
Lin added that it is difficult to find solutions to problems at the Gongliao plant because there is a dearth of professionals at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the council who understand the issues.
Seperately yesterday, the council said it submitted an amendment to the Nuclear Damage Compensation Law (核子損害賠償法) to the Legislative Yuan to increase the maximum compensation amount that a nuclear facility operators’ can be liable for to NT$15 billion (US$498.1 million) from NT$4.2 billion.
Citing the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy and the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, the council said both conventions raised the maximum limit of compensation pay to about NT$15 billion after 1997.
It said that after local media reported that the compensation for nuclear damage in Taiwan is much lower than in other countries, it re-evaluated the current laws and proposed to raise nuclear facility operators’ liability.
Proposed amendments to the law included raising the maximum compensation amount, compensating for nuclear damage caused by natural disasters and extending the legal period for making claims to 30 years, the council said.
Earlier last week, civic groups Greenpeace Taiwan and Green Citizens’ Action Alliance said that in the event of a nuclear accident at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the estimated potential economic loss to areas within a 50km radius would be about NT$33.9 trillion a year — about 2.4 times Taiwan’s GDP last year.
This figure does not include public healthcare costs, water pollution, cultural and educational losses, or a fall in real-estate prices, they added.
Moreover, they said the law stipulating that Taipower, not contractors, are responsible for compensation in the event of a problem in essence means victims subsidize themselves since the company would be compensating people with their own tax money.