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President calls for regular drills to boost nuclear safety

2011/05/17 19:13:28

Taipei, May 17 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Tuesday thatTaiwan still needs nuclear power for a while yet and it is importantto conduct regular drills to boost public confidence in nuclearsafety.

Speaking during a drill at Taiwan's No. 2 nuclear power plant inWanli, New Taipei City, Ma noted that a massive earthquake andtsunami in Japan on March 11 had knocked out the power system at theFukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and crippled its cooling system.

"This showed the difficulty in handling multiple disasters andmade Taiwan realize that we cannot afford any missteps if we want toavoid unthinkable dire consequences," Ma said.

The drill, patterned after the recent nuclear crisis in Japan,simulated a magnitude 8 earthquake and subsequent tsunami thatknocked out all water and electricity systems.

The primary goal was to safeguard lives and prevent radiationleaks, hydrogen explosions and overheating at the nuclear powerplant.

"We have to prepare for the worst-case scenario," Ma said.

This must be done despite the fact that Taiwan's geologicalenvironment is different from Japan's and many experts have concludedthat an earthquake like the one in Japan is unlikely in Taiwan, hesaid.

In the event of an uncontrollable nuclear disaster, thegovernment will take the resolute action of either "shutting down orscrapping the nuclear power plants," Ma said.

The two-day drill, the first of its kind sponsored by the AtomicEnergy Council (AEC), Taiwan Power Company and New Taipei City, willmove outside the plant Wednesday.

Meanwhile, AEC Minister Tsai Chuen-horng said Tuesday that Taiwansigned a letter of intent in early May with the United States oncooperation in the event of nuclear or radiation emergencies.

The letter of intent will take effect when the administrativeprocedures are completed, Tsai said.

"The agreement will pave the way for the National NuclearSecurity Administration (NNSA) under the U.S. Department of Energy toassist us in case of nuclear emergencies, " AEC Deputy Minister ShiehDer-jhy said recently.

(By Yang Shu-min and Lilian Wu)
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