The 39 spent nuclear fuel rods that have been stored for two decades at the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research (INER) in Taoyuan County pose no danger, officials said.
Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚), Longtan Township (龍潭) Mayor Yeh Fa-hai (葉發海) and the area’s elected lawmaker, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲), on Thursday toured the site with radiation detectors in hand, but found no abnormal radiation levels, they said.
INER chief secretary Lee Hai-kuang (李海光) said that the rods stored at the facility are all that is left of the 175 spent rods given to INER more than 20 years ago for research. The rest have been “returned” to the US, he said, but he said the reasons for doing so were classified.
INER director-general Ma Yin-pang (馬殷邦) said the remaining rods have been closely monitored and have passed safety inspections conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
He downplayed media reports that the facility has experienced six “hydrogen explosions” over the course of its research, saying the incidents were more akin to a flash burn of gas than a large-scale explosion.
Ma said it would be wrong to draw any parallels with the meltdowns during the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster in Japan.
However, Ma said just what research is being conducted is classified, adding that even he does not have access to the information.
Nuclear power currently generates about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.
When the country’s three operating nuclear power plants are due to be decommissioned between 2018 and 2025, the government’s plan was for the yet-to-be-completed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) to fill part of the gap in power generation.