[Taiwan's] Nuclear power plans are unchanged: Ma
Comment of the Day

May 18 2011

Commentary by David Fuller

[Taiwan's] Nuclear power plans are unchanged: Ma

My thanks to a subscriber for this interesting item from The China Post. Here is the opening paragraph:
The nation will not decommission its Nuclear Plant Nos. 1, 2 and 3 earlier than planned and will proceed with the ongoing construction of Plant No.4 as scheduled because nuclear energy is irreplaceable in the near future, Ma said after overseeing the Nuclear Security Drill No.17 at Nuclear Plant No.2 accompanied by New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-jen (???) and Atomic Energy Council Minister Tsai Chuen-horng.


Several hundred people, including employees from the Nuclear Plant No.3, New Taipei City firefighters and other personnel, participated in the two-day drill that began yesterday. The exercise was based on the scenario of the plant being impacted by a Magnitude 8 earthquake that struck 342 kilometers off Taiwan's northeast coast and the 15-20-meter tsunami the tremor triggered.

Responders were trained to react to a situation similar to those faced by the workers in Fukushima Nuclear Plant in the wake of the March 11 earthquake: Both reactors at the plant were automatically shut down after the quake and the control rods in the reactors were inserted to slow the rate of fuel fission. The double impact, however, knocked off the power grid for an extended period of time, putting the event a Grade 1 incident in the International Atomic Energy Agency's 7-grade system.

The simulated event escalated quickly after response personnel tried but failed to start the backup diesel generators, meaning that Nuclear Plant No.2 faced a "station blackout" and was out of normal means to pump in water to cool the reactors.

In response, plant employees took the extraordinary measures of inducing raw water from a pool built at ground level above the plant by natural gravity and successfully cooled the reactors.

David Fuller's view This was a sensible, disciplined and reassuring drill to ensure Taiwan could cope with a Fukushima-type disaster, however unlikely that may be.

It is also noteworthy that Taiwan's reactors are of a more recent and superior design than those at Fukushima, not least due to the emergency water coolant being above the actual fuel rods, so that it can still be released even in event of a total electricity shutdown.

I hope other countries will follow Taiwan's lead and conduct appropriate safety drills. This is in everyone's interests and far preferable to succumbing to pressure from anti-nuclear activists, as we have seen in a few western countries.

There should be no compromising of public safety, while also ensuring that economies have the cleanest and really reliable energy sources available. This cannot be done without an expansion of nuclear power.

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