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Activists call for shutdown of aging nuclear power plant

2012/04/20 23:06:33

Taipei, April 20 (CNA) Concerned about the safety of an aging nuclear power plant in northern Taiwan, environmentalists on Friday called for the suspension of operations at the facility.

Members of several environmental protection groups warned at a press conference that the No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli, New Taipei, which began commercial operations three decades ago, "has entered the final stage of its life cycle."

"The discovery of cracked anchor bolts at one of the power plant's reactors is the final warning," said Green Consumers' Foundation Chairman Jay Fang.

Cracks indicate the degeneration of the nuclear power plant's structure, operating systems, and parts and components. Allowing the aging plant to continue running would jeopardize the public's safety, Fang said, urging that the plant be shut down.

The reactor where damaged bolts were found has been turned off for repairs and safety checks, but the plant's other reactor is still running.

To draw the government's attention to the issue, the environmentalists said they will set up a warning device, called the "Taiwan Doomsday Clock," in front of the Legislative Yuan on the day when state-run utility Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) applies to resume operations of the affected reactor.

During routine safety checks of the No. 2 nuclear power plant on March 16, Taipower found that one of 120 anchor bolts that attach the plant's first reactor to its concrete base had broken and six others had cracked.

According to the state-run company, all the problematic bolts have been replaced and the affected reactor has been certified by its designer, General Electric Company, as ready to resume operations.

In response to the activists' call, the Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council reiterated that "safety" has been the most important factor that decides whether or not a nuclear power plant should be allowed to operate.

If any reactor at Taiwan's nuclear power plants is found to be aging and poses a safety threat, it will be immediately shut down, officials from the council said.

They also said an investigation is underway to find out what caused the cracks in the problematic anchor bolts.

Before the probe proves the reactor is safe to run again and the investigation results are verified by the council, the reactor will not be allowed to resume operations, the officials said.

No timetable has been set to bring the reactor back on line, theyunderlined.

Taiwan has three nuclear power plants in operation and is building a fourth. Environmentalists see the plants' existence as a threat to the country's survival, especially in the wake of the nuclear meltdown at a plant in Japan last year following a massive earthquake and tsunami.

(By Chen Ting-wei, Lin Meng-ju and Elizabeth Hsu)