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United Evening News: Deal with new nuclear plant seriously

2012/03/19 19:49:54

Taiwan seemed to be motionless when other countries were busy reviewing the safety of their nuclear power plants after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan caused a nuclear disaster in that country on March 11 last year.

The situation remains unchanged even now, although Tsai Chuen-horng, the head of the Cabinet-level Automatic Energy Council (AEC), said at a recent legislative session that the latest report by Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) on the safety of the yet-to-be-completed fourth nuclear power plant was "not trustworthy."

Taipower is the constructor and operator of the nuclear power plant.

"I don't believe it," the simple phrase uttered by the head of the agency that supervises nuclear development and safety in Taiwan should have been an earth-shattering remark. However, his comment apparently hasn't even caused a ripple, as if a small coin had been tossed into a pond, since the country -- from the government to the general public -- has been embroiled in the controversial issue of a toxic drug used as a feed additive for livestock.

The nuclear safety issue was thrown into the spotlight only after two articles by Lin Tsung-yao -- a former member of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant Safety Monitoring Committee -- went viral among netizens. This prompted several lawmakers to again bring it to the Legislature, as well as ask Tsai to clearly address the safety of the new plant, which is scheduled to be operational in three years.

Over the years, there have been long debates on the safety of the plant between Taipower and anti-nuclear activists, with the latter totally denying Taipower's assurances on the the plant's safety. On its part, Taipower accuses the activists of "airing views without professional expertise."

Lin said the plant in New Taipei is an "assembled one" with mixed construction procedures, poor quality of work and inefficient system integration. To make matters worse, he added, the professionalism of the people responsible for the plant's test runs "is questionable."

Apparently, the AEC understands what is happening at the nuke plant because it has frequently meted out fines to Taipower, but to no avail.

Since the government officials who are suspected of covering up the recent outbreak of H5N2 avian flu virus have stepped down for endangering public health, how can the government allow Taipower officials to continue covering up the problems of the plant and force the people to accept the unsafe nuclear plant? Such an issue clearly threatens the lives of people today and for many generations to come.

It's the duty of the AEC and Tsai to order a suspension of the plant's construction until its safety issue is completely addressed. However, it seems Tsai and AEC will not dare to make such a decision due to "political pressure."

As a result, the fourth nuclear power plant has become a "national safety issue." It's time for the top authorities to make clear their attitude on the matter. (Editorial abstract -- March 19, 2012)

(By Bear Lee) enditem/npw