The government is verifying with Japan the safety of nuclear plant equipment sold to Taiwan, the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) said yesterday, in the wake of a report that the products may not have undergone safety inspections before being exported from Japan.
AEC Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) made the remarks in response to queries raised by lawmakers during the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee meeting yesterday. The lawmakers questioned the AEC and Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) about a media report in Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun that said at least 40 percent of the nuclear power equipment and components exported from Japan in the decade before October last year did not go through Japan’s safety certification process.
According to the report, the uncertified nuclear power equipment and components were exported to 18 countries and areas, including Taiwan, Brazil and Sweden, and the exports to Taiwan were mainly for the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市).
“Our preliminary understanding is that the so-called national safety certification is a business certificate,” AEC Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) said. “We are positive that it has nothing to do with nuclear safety.”
Three specialists from the Japanese government’s nuclear power control facility visited the AEC on Tuesday, so the council has also asked them to contact Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority for confirmation, Tsai said.
“Their preliminary response is that our understanding was correct, but the council will make further confirmation through official channels,” he said.
Taipower chairman Hwang Jung-chiou (黃重球) said he did not know about the national safety certification and has filed documents to question the manufacturing companies, but his initial understanding is that it has nothing to do with the quality of the parts and has no effect on nuclear safety.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said the AEC and Taipower should not speculate on nuclear safety issues and asked that a formal report on the issue be given to the legislature as soon as possible.
With similar concerns also expressed by other legislators, Tsai later agreed to make official contact with Japan’s nuclear control facilities to better understand the issue and said that Taipower should submit related documents to the council within two weeks.
In other developments, Tsai reported that the council has invited specialist groups gathered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the EU to conduct independent peer review on the stress test reports on Taiwan’s nuclear power plants this year.
DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) asked why a report by specialists from the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) in June had raised issues, but the AEC did not mention them.
The WANO assessment commissioned by Taipower made several suggestions about construction designs and the installation and location of equipment, Lin said.
In response, Tsai said the AEC has not seen the report and respects Taipower’s decision not to submit it, but added that Taipower may face punishment if there are serious nuclear safety issues from the WANO assessment that it did not reveal to the council.