During an interview with the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), Tu Tze-chen (杜紫宸), former head of the Industrial Technology Research Institute’s Knowledge-based Economy and Competitiveness Center, touched upon the topic of air pollution.
He said that the government could consider restarting the second generator of the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City, as it was not originally taken offline due to an accident or because of safety concerns and still has five-and-a-half years to go before its designated lifespan expires.
He also said that the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Pingtung County’s Ma-anshan (馬鞍山) was perfectly safe and that by extending its lifespan it would be possible to burn less coal, thereby reducing pollution.
However, 30 minutes after the conclusion of major maintenance on the Guosheng plant’s second generator on May 16 last year, an explosion occurred in the lightning arrester box, an accident that only came to public attention several days later, when a worker at the plant leaked the news via a legislator.
How can we say there are no safety concerns when equipment explodes so soon after major maintenance work at a nuclear power plant? Since the time of the explosion, we have done without the second generator for two summers. Why risk restarting it now?
There are even larger safety concerns over the Ma-anshan plant, which was built in a place where a nuclear power plant should never have been built: on an active tectonic fault.
Fires have broken out at the plant on numerous occasions. In 1985, a turbine blade failure led to a fire and hydrogen leakage; in 2001 a fire broke out when the emergency diesel generator trains failed to start due to problems caused by salt-bearing seasonal sea smog; water intrusion into the high-pressure “bushing” sleeve caused another fire in 2009; in 2015 an auxiliary step-down transformer caught fire; and deterioration of the generator’s insulation caused yet another fire last year.
It is not just fires, either: In 2015 stud bolts jammed in the reactor lid, the control rod drive shaft warped, the steam generator bolts cracked and a bolt shot out and injured a contractor. In October last year, bolts once again jammed.
Last year brought more accidents: In January, a cooler sprang free, causing the generator to shut down; in March, coolant leakage led to an upsurge in radiation; in May, a control rod guide tube fell off and became bent; in June, the exhaust pipes of the main turbine’s condenser cracked; and in July, deterioration of the motor cable insulation caused an emergency shutdown of the unit.
The plant has been plagued by problems and should be decommissioned immediately.
According to Article 95 of the Electricity Act (電業法), power-generating facilities that use nuclear energy are to wholly stop running by 2025. The operating license for the second generator of the Ma-anshan plant expires in May of that year. Extending its lifespan would be against the law.
Nuclear power produces highly polluting nuclear waste. This, coupled with the risk of nuclear disaster, means that it cannot be considered a clean source of energy.
Once the improvements to the Linkou coal-fired power plant in New Taipei City have been completed, the amount of coal used to generate a unit of electricity will have been reduced by 15 percent and greenhouse gas emissions will have fallen by approximately 20 percent. The improvements came after Taiwan Power promised to invest to improve air quality and the efficiency of “green” facilities.
CPC is now also considering to turn its gas stations into “green” energy stations, charging electric cars using renewable sources of energy and reducing mobile sources of air pollution. It is also considering restarting research into geothermal energy from Datunshan.
Continuing to consider restarting the generators at the Guosheng and Ma-anshan plants does more than show a lack of risk awareness: It also risks forgoing the opportunity to develop other sustainable sources of energy.
Tsai Ya-ying is a lawyer affiliated with the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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