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Pre-operation 4th nuclear plant has started: AEC
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-03-05 03:01 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Atomic Energy Council said Wednesday that the controversial fourth nuclear plant had entered the stage of ‘pre-operation,’ drawing strong criticism from lawmakers.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets of several cities Saturday to demand a halt to the project nearing completion in the New Taipei City coastal district of Gongliao.

In contrast to the general idea that nuclear fuel rods needed to be installed first before there could be talk of ‘pre-operation’ or test runs, this was not a necessary precondition, AEC Minister Tsai Chuen-horng told legislators Wednesday.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Taiwan Power Corporation were generally believed to be planning to install the rods in September, but Tsai said the AEC had not received their application yet.

The MOEA responded that September was the date the ministry would submit the plant’s safety report to the AEC, but that did not mean the fuel rods would be added immediately.

The discussion took place at the Legislative Yuan where the Education and Culture Committee had invited the AEC and the MOEA to explain how it proposed to reinforce nuclear power plants. After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the MOEA demanded that Taipower conduct a thorough safety review for all nuclear reactors, with special attention for the design, the protection of equipment and the measures in place to respond to emergencies.

Of the 96 improvement measures deemed necessary for the first three nuclear plants, 93 had been completed, with the three final ones scheduled to be finished in February 2015, the MOEA said.

The fourth nuclear plant would see its improvements completed one year later, in February 2016, according to the ministry. A total of 67 measures, of which 56 had been implemented so far, included earthquake and tsunami prevention and backup power sources.

On Tuesday, the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance accused the government of suppressing a report from the MOEA’s Bureau of Energy showing that the fourth nuclear plant was not necessary to meet Taiwan’s energy needs.

Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch rejected the allegations and added that it was not possible to have zero growth for energy demand. He described the possibility of such a state mentioned by the report as “an extreme hypothesis.” If the government imposed strict savings, the demand would only grow by 1.41 percent between 2013 and 2030, according to the report. The environmentalist group said that even if all three existing nuclear plants ceased operations and the fourth was not used, there still would not be any risk of power shortages.

The MOEA also came under attack for having funded a commercial about the nuclear issue with taxpayers’ money. Under pressure from lawmakers, it announced Wednesday that the ad had cost NT$1.4 million (US$46,000), but it denied an intention to scare the public into supporting nuclear energy. All the commercial did, was to explain the existing power supply situation, officials said. If the first nuclear plant were closed in 2018 without the fourth plant ready to take over, rationing of electricity might have to be introduced, the MOEA said.

Anti-nuclear activists are hoping to mobilize more than the 220,000 protesters who appeared at last year’s event marking the anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. Protests will take place in several towns across the country, including Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung and Taitung.

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