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Taiwan after Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Taiwan Environmental Protection Unit

Since the Fukushima disaster, NGOs hosted two major demonstrations, on March 20 and April 30, as well as many ongoing nationwide activities. Two days after the Fukushima disaster, Deputy Chair of the Atomic Energy Council, Taiwan’s regulatory body, assured the Legislators that Taiwan’s six operating nuclear reactors are as safe as “Buddha sitting comfortably on her lotus platform“.

NGOs and some Legislators called for abolishing the construction of the 4th nuclear power plant, and immediate stopping the 6 operating reactors for thorough safety check-ups. Taiwan has three operating nuclear power plants: Chinshan, Kuosheng, and Maanshan, with two reactors each. The fourth plant, Lungmen, two 1300MW ABWR, is under construction.

On March 15, President Ma, of the pronuclear KMT party, said there is no need to change the current nuclear policy. “The existing 6 reactors will keep running till serious incidences emerge. Since no signs of emergency occurs, no need to stop these reactors.” “Once real serious incidences occur, reactors will be abandoned immediately to protect the public”. President Ma’s announcements were criticized as “nonsense and stupidity” by non-governmental organizations. In addition, AEC officials said that radioactivity from Fukushima reaching Taiwan is impossible. Only a few days later they were forced to admit that vegetables in northern Taiwan were found to be contaminated.

One survey conducted by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, DPP, on March 16, shows 50.6% of the Taiwanese population has little confidence in nuclear plant operation; 61.1% has little confidence in government’s ability of handling the crisis and 76.5% agrees that the construction of the 4th nuclear power plant should temporarily be stopped till reactor safety are warrant. Another survey conducted by the Taiwan Thinktank, on March 17th shows 58% agrees that construction of 4th nuclear power plant should be stopped and should be re-evaluated; 65% worries about nuclear safety; 79% does not know how to evacuate and how to cope with a nuclear accident if it occurs in Taiwan; 56% suspect that radioactive nuclei from Fukushima can travel to Taiwan; and finally 74.6% of people in Taiwan do not accept AEC’s analogy that Taiwan’s nuclear plants are as safe as Buddha on her lotus seat.

On May 30, maybe concerned about possible influences of the nuclear issue on the Presidential and parliamentary elections next January, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced “no lifetime extensions (after 40 years’ operation) for current reactors” and “no 4th nuclear power plant operation unless safety is guaranteed”. Before the Fukushima incident, the Ministry of Economic Affairs sent its energy policy to the Environmental Protection Agency for policy Environmental Impact Assessment. That particular energy policy was formed August 2010, with expansion of nuclear and coal at its core. One week before the May 30 announcement, the Ministry quietly retracted its energy policy from EPA.

As reported in the Nuclear Monitor 688, May 7, 2009, the Atomic Energy Council revealed that between January and November 2007, state-owned Taipower changed the 4th nuclear plant design in 395 places without applying permission from the Atomic Energy Council, as law requires. Taipower was fined 4 million NT dollars for misconduct (US$ 139,000 or 100,000 euro). However, additional more than 700 safety related design changes without approval were discovered in January 2011. On March 8, three days before the Fukushima disaster, AEC fined Taipower 15 million NT dollars, and sent the case to the prosecutor for violating ”Nuclear Reactor Facilities Regulatory Acts”. This is a bold and unprecedented act from the rather weak AEC. At the deadline of this article, July 25, one cannot be sure whether AEC will act as strong in the future, and eventually shut the 4th nuclear power plant, or if AEC is just a dummy testing political winds.

Source and contact: Gloria Hsu, Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, TEPU.
2nd Fl., No. 107, Section 3, Ting Chou Road, Taipei, Taiwan.