Thu, Jul 21, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Taipower denies report of fire at nuclear facility

REPEATED INCIDENTS:The company blamed a system malfunction, as on March 26. In both incidents, short circuits of decades-old power cables are likely causes

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) yesterday denied the company had covered up a suspected fire at the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Pingtung County’s Ma-anshan (馬鞍山) in May, while the county government said the company had kept local officials in the dark.

According to a report by Chinese-language Next Magazine, the plant’s automatic fire suppression system was triggered and released a large amount of carbon dioxide on May 28.

The plant’s management told the county government that the incident was caused by a system malfunction and there was no fire.

However, the county government’s nuclear safety task force inspected the plant and found that the fire suppression system was functioning properly.

According to the report, the system might have been triggered by heat generated by the short circuit of a power cable.

There was a similar incident at the plant on March 26, which Taipower said was also caused by a system malfunction, the report said.

Power cables in the plant have not been replaced in more than 30 years, the report said.

Taipower spokesperson Lin Te-fu (林德福) yesterday said there have been three such incidents since March, but reiterated that the incidents were caused by system malfunctions and there were no fires or extreme heat, and cables were not burned.

The fire suppression system of an electrical room near the plant’s No. 1 reactor accidentally released carbon dioxide on March 26 and May 1 due to the malfunction of the system’s fire alarm control panel, Lin said.

The fire system of a steam turbine malfunctioned on May 28 because a single cable was grounded and sent false signals, Lin added.

The three incidents did not cause fires or radiation leaks, and the company replaced problematic equipment following the incidents, the company said, adding that a comprehensive replacement of fire system equipment would be completed by the end of this year.

The incidents were explained to the Pingtung County Government and the Atomic Energy Council immediately, the company said.

However, Pingtung County Government spokesman Huang Chien-chia (黃建嘉) said the task force visited the plant on June 29 and found what appeared to be burn marks, but some power cables — likely those involved in the May 28 incident — were replaced, so the task force could not confirm whether there had been a fire, Huang said.

“Why did Taipower replace those cables, but not others? The timing of the replacement is questionable. How long were those cables used and how long have other cables been used? Taipower should give us an explanation,” Huang said, calling on the plant to reveal surveillance footage to clarify the incidents.

“There were more than 10 fire suppression system ‘malfunctions’ between 2009 and last year, showing there is a problem with the plant’s management,” Huang said. “Meanwhile, repeated false alarms might make local rescue teams think the plant is crying wolf when a real disaster happens.”

Huang said the task force visited the plant nearly one month after the May 28 incident because that is when the county government was tipped off about the incident.

Before that, the plant only told the county government that it had replaced parts of the fire system, without revealing that the fire system had released carbon dioxide.

The county government is scheduled to hold a news conference today to urge transparency in the management of the plant.

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