Thu, Oct 03, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Peer review of nuclear plant stress tests criticized

TRANSPARENCY ISSUES:Critics said the nine European experts reviewing the report might not know enough about Taiwan to adequately be able to interpret the data

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Nuclear specialists and environmentalists yesterday criticized the ongoing peer review of the stress tests report on the nation’s nuclear power plants by an independent peer review team assembled by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG). They said there is lack of information and transparency in the team’s work.

The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) invited the nine-person team to conduct a 10-day peer review on the Taiwan Stress Tests National Report for Nuclear Power Plants drafted by the council. The stress tests had been performed by the plants’ operator, Taiwan Power Co (Taipower).

The team arrived in Taiwan on Sept. 23.

Green Consumers Foundation chairman Jay Fang (方儉) told a press conference yesterday that the peer reviews require the participation of civic groups to act as monitors, so 10 representatives from civic groups were invited by the council to attend a meeting on Sept 25.

“But when we arrived at the Atomic Energy Council’s building, we were faced with at least two lines of riot police at the door, making us feel nervous and pressured,” he said.

The council’s unfriendly attitude made them decide not to attend the meeting, he said.

“Accidents often occur from the unattended details,” he said, questioning whether the European experts knew about the conditions in Taiwan, such as the nation’s working culture, the industry and its design abilities, all of which may affect the operation of the plants.

National Taiwan University atmospheric sciences professor Gloria Hsu (徐光蓉) said the full name of the stress test is “comprehensive and transparent risk and safety assessments,” but the tests are very “limited.”

She said the tests assess the plants’ safety margins in the light of extreme natural events, the loss of safety functions and following a severe accident, but said the process was “not transparent” in Taiwan.

“Whether the designs are flawed, whether there are aging problems, how much experience the operator has, or if the regulatory body is doing its job monitoring the operator, these factors are all neglected in the stress test,” she said.

Yilan Charlie Chen Foundation consultant David Ho (賀立維) said another major problem with the stress tests report is that it provides old, unrevised data about geological conditions that underestimated the lengths of faults near the plants and tsunami simulation.

Fang said the peer review lacked credibility because it cannot promise that the plant reactors will be safe to operate and the team has no obligation to guarantee their safety.

The review is more of an endorsement for the plants’ operator and could be used to mislead the public that the plants have “passed” the tests, he said.

The peer review process is scheduled to end tomorrow and the team’s report is supposed to be sent to the council in a month.

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