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Pingtung to sanction nuclear power plant for alleged safety breach
【Society】2015-04-27  19:13:19
Taipei, April 27 (CNA) Pingtung County authorities will take legal action against Taiwan's third nuclear power plant for failing to report an accident in the plant that could have harmed public safety, a spokesman for the county government said Monday.

Huang Chien-chia (黃建嘉) said the plant failed to voluntarily report a fire in an outdoor transformer outside its No. 2 reactor as soon as it happened late Sunday night and then lied that it did.

"It is obvious negligence of the value of human life," the spokesman said.

The nuclear power plant, located at the southern tip of Pingtung County on the Hengchun Peninsula, has faced eight public safety incidents since 2001, none of which were reported to the local government, Huang said.

This time, the county government will do whatever it can to punish the plant "for offenses against public safety," Huang said in conveying Magistrate Pan Men-an's (潘孟安) anger at the plant's failure to report the fire to local authorities.

According to Pingtung County Fire Bureau Director Hsu Mei-hsueh (許美雪), the fire broke out at 11:58 p.m. Sunday, and it was reported to police by a local resident at 00:07 a.m. Monday morning.

The nuclear power plant's firefighting team arrived at the scene at 00:08 a.m. and extinguished the fire by 00:15 a.m, she said, but it did not report the fire to her bureau until 00:39 a.m., and it did so only after being prodded by the bureau.

Plant officials responded that their first priority was to put out the fire and then notify the relevant authorities.

They contended that the plant did not break any laws because industrial safety accidents must be reported to local government authorities within an hour after they happen.

Huang said the one-hour requirement only applies to problems involving environmental pollution, not for incidents that pose immediate danger.

State utility Taiwan Power Company (Taipower), which runs all of Taiwan's nuclear plants, said earlier in the day that the blaze broke out in the plant's non-nuclear zone and did not pose any danger of radioactive contamination.

The auxiliary outdoor transformer affected by the fire, which converts 345 KV electric current into 161 KV current, supplies electricity for the operation of the nuclear power plant, it said.

But there are other power supplies, including three emergency diesel generators, that could have maintained power had the transformer gone down and prevented any interruption in the supply of electricity to the reactor, the company said.

The Third Nuclear Power Plant is the only one of Taiwan's three operating nuclear power plants that is situated in the southern half of the island.

Nuclear power has been a sensitive topic in Taiwan since the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Japan in mid-March 2011.

The incident increased doubts over the safety of nuclear energy and led to public resistance to the opening of Taiwan's nearly completed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, which eventually was mothballed.

(By Kuo Chu-chen and Elizabeth Hsu)
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