Taipower accused of concealing info on nuke plant leak tests
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-12 06:04 PM
A move by DPP legislator Ho Hsin-chun to invite citizens groups to attend a session of the Legislative Yuan’s Education and Culture Committee Monday for a report on recent tests at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant triggered strong protests from KMT legislators who said it violated rules of procedure for the committee. Ruling and opposition legislators clashed over whether the outsiders should be allowed in with Greens charging that Blue lawmakers were afraid the truth about the nuclear power plant would come out. Meanwhile members of the citizens groups exchanged words with Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) vice president Chen Pu-tsan outside the meeting room, as Chen implored citizens groups not to use the media to make accusations that sully the hard work done by Taipower and its employees.

The committee was scheduled to hear reports from the Atomic Energy Council (AEC), the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Taipower on the status of construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, but before things got underway KMT legislators Chen Shu-huey, Pan Wei-kang, Chen Pi-han and others voiced their objection to allowing the citizens groups to be present. The lawmakers were specifically concerned about allowing in Hung Shen-han and Hsu Shih-ya, the secretary-general and a researcher at the Green Citizens Action Alliance (GCAA). A Blue lawmaker noted that Article 61 of the rules of procedure for the Legislative Yuan stipulates that no one other than committee members and their staff are permitted to attend committee meetings, saying that citizens groups were not "interested persons" and should not be permitted to attend the proceedings.

Ho countered by citing articles of the Constitution and committee rules which say that members of the community may be invited by committee members to attend hearings and saying she had done nothing wrong in bringing in outsiders. Other Green committee members charged that the KMT is worried by media reports that there were problems with leaks in the number one reactor of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in tests conducted between February 26 and March 5 this year. They said KMT legislators were trying to keep outsiders out of the hearings out of fear that the truth behind the leak tests would be revealed.

Chien Fu-tien, the head of Nuclear Safety at Taipower, said tests carried out on March 6 this year confirmed the strength of the reinforced concrete structures designed to hold in any leaks of radiation that might occur in the reactor assembly. Chien disclosed that structural integrity tests (SIT) and integrated leak rate tests (ILRT) conducted on the primary containment structure and Reactor Number One at half pressure showed a leakage rate of 0.33% per month, which is within the international standard of 0.375%. Chien added that test procedures for locating and taking care of potential problems with leaks in a reactor assembly ordinarily take anywhere from three to six months.

Chen Pu-tsang stressed that Taipower is not attempt to conceal anything regarding the tests of the containment housing and Reactor Number One at Longmen. The engineering and construction of the structures meet all requirements, he said, adding that leak tests are still being carried out at the power plant. He noted that Taipower engineers are studying the results of the tests to correct any defects that might allow leaks in the system.

AEC Chairman C. H. Tsai told lawmakers that Taipower's tests showed that the reinforced concrete structures meet all design requirements. He noted that testing will continue to identify and address any potential problems. Asked by a reporter whether leakage is a normal situation, Tsai first said it was not normal, then immediately corrected himself to say that at this stage of construction leaks cannot be called ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal.’ He explained that the purpose of testing is to identify any problems and then correct them.

Meanwhile quarrels also took place outside the meeting room. Hung Shen-han said he believes a Taipower press release given out in April, which claimed the test had revealed no irregularities, was covering up problems in the plant. Hung criticized the KMT for refusing to open up the hearings to outside observers and failing to operate in a transparent manner.

Hung was at the entrance to the Legislative Yuan when Chen Pu-tsang arrived and directly accused the Taipower official of covering up the results of safety tests. Chen defended Taipower's performance and the April press release and asked the activists not to make false accusations that insult the company’s efforts. He said that Taipower will issue a full report after all testing has been completed and asked the citizens groups and the media not to spread reports based on what he called "hearsay evidence."

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