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Nuclear safety has nothing to do with plant's privatization

2013/10/01 21:38:22

Taipei, Oct. 1 (CNA) Nuclear safety is a physical issue, not an organizational one, a visiting Japanese expert said Tuesday, adding that the safety has nothing to do with whether a nuclear power plant is run by the government or not.

The disastrous 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan happened "because of physical problems and had nothing to do with the company being public or private," Japanese business strategist Kenichi Ohmae told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

"They didn't have proper preparation for this type of accident. It's a physical phenomenon," he added.

Nuclear power plants run by both public and private companies have had disasters, Ohmae said, noting that the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) used to be private, while the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine was run by the state.

Ohmae was invited to Taiwan to share his experience of nuclear energy issues. In 2012, he became a member of the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee of TEPCO after the disastrous meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Knowing that the construction of Taiwan's controversial fourth nuclear power plant in New Taipei has come under close public scrutiny, Ohmae urged the Taiwanese government to communicate with the public.

"It's your government's job to explain what they have learned from the lesson of Fukushima and what they have done to avoid Fukushima-type accidents," he said.

The 70-year-old declined to comment further on Taiwan's nuclear power plants and nuclear energy policies, but said Japan has spent a lot of money buying fuel to produce electricity since all its nuclear plants were shut down in mid-September.

Earlier, President Ma Ying-jeou noted at a meeting with Ohmae that electricity rates in Japan have risen substantially over the past year, with household costs up at least 10 percent and industrial usage up at least 17.5 percent.

Fuel imports even caused Japan to see a trade deficit of 8 trillion Japanese yen (US$81.66 billion) in 2012, he added.

The Fukushima accident has put Taiwan on alert, the president said, adding that extra measures have been taken to ensure safety.

Taiwan currently operates three nuclear power plants -- two in New Taipei and the other in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan -- which are around three decades old.

They provide about 20 percent of the country's electricity at present but are scheduled to be decommissioned beginning in 2018.

The construction of the controversial No. 4 plant has stretched over 14 years and has so far cost taxpayers some NT$300 billion (US$10 billion). It is scheduled to be completed later this year.

Over 6.5 million people, or about 30 percent of Taiwan's population, live within 80 km of the plant.

(By Kelvin Huang and James Lee)