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Taipower admits to paying hefty price for replacing defective bolts

2012/04/23 22:38:01

Taipei, April 21 (CNA) State-run utility Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), which runs Taiwan's three operating nuclear power plants, admitted Monday that it paid a high price to replace defective anchor bolts at one of the plants because of the urgency of the repairs.

Plant executives made the admission in response to questions from several legislators, including the ruling Kuomintang's Huang Chao-shun and Liao Kuo-tung, amid reports that Taipower was "ripped off" by General Electric for replacement parts and service.

The lawmakers visited the No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli, New Taipei, Monday to learn more about the situation, including what manufacturers Taipower turned to and whether the problem will recur.

Plant General Manager Liu Tseng-hsi said seven out of the 120 anchor bolts in one of the two reactors were found defective during routine maintenance work that is performed every 18 months. One of the bolts was broken and six others showed signs of cracking, Liu said.

Roger Chang, manager of the plant's mechanical section, said Taipower only wanted to purchase nine bolt assemblies, and many manufacturers were not willing to provide such a small quantity.

Aside from General Electric, Taipower approached another U.S. manufacturer that quoted a price of US$25,000 for one bolt, excluding the nut and washer, and gave a lead time of at least four weeks.

Chang said General Electric quoted US$48,000 per set of one nut, bolt and washer and a 10-day lead time.

"We also felt it was very expensive, and we were outraged," Chang said, but considering the urgency of the situation, the plant could not afford to wait, and "we had to pay the money."

According to General Electric, the total price for the repair and replacement of the problem parts was US$2.92 million (around NT$87.55 million), with the nine sets of parts costing US$430,000, or 15 percent of the total, and 62 percent going to installation, engineering, technical support and the cost of technicians.

Liu said that after Taipower picks up the know-how, it will be able to fix the problem the next time it occurs and not be charged such high prices again.

The episode only added to criticism of Taipower's handling of its nuclear power facilities and more generally to growing opposition of the use of nuclear power in Taiwan.

Several environment groups have expressed concern in the wake of reports about problematic anchor bolts, with some calling for the plant to be shut down.

(By Liu Li-jung and Lilian Wu)