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Taiwan's nuclear power plants

Taiwan -- Citing a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report, a Taiwanese scholar yesterday described the country's four nuclear power plants as "hazardous," urging caution on the part of the government in the pursuit of its nuclear policy.However, Taipower, the country's state-run power monopoly, disputed the allegation, saying the plants can withstand magnitude-7.0 or above earthquakes.

The world has 14 nuclear power plants on high-activity faults, each operating a number of reactors, and all of them are found in Japan and Taiwan, said Chan Chang-chuan, a professor with National Taiwan University's College of Public Health, citing an article in the March 21 issue of the WSJ.

Furthermore, 15 out of the 34 reactors face the double hazards of earthquakes and tsunamis, including the four operated by two of Taiwan's three existing nuclear power plants.
According to Chan, the three existing nuclear plants and a fourth, the one now under construction, are located in earthquake-prone regions near the sea to facilitate the transportation of nuclear fuel and construction materials.

Furthermore, in the event of nuclear crises, water can be easily pumped from the sea and dumped on the stricken plants to cool them down, he added.
This makes Taiwan's nuclear power plants even closer to the sea than most nuclear power plants in Japan and, as such, even more vulnerable to tsunamis than the Japanese facilities, said the NTU scholar, noting that the tsunami that devastated Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant reached more than 3 km inland.

According to Taipower, the sites of the country's nuclear power plants have been chosen after consulting American laws and regulations, and the main facilities of the plants are all built on relatively stable rock masses, and with materials capable of withstanding earthquakes higher than magnitude-7.0.
Citing meteorological records, the company said it had taken the possible magnitude of tsunamis into consideration and conducted geological and other studies in the areas before designing the nuclear power plants.

The question of the plants' locations on high-activity faults has been referred to experts for in-depth studies in light of new evidence and events, Taipower said

Chan did not recommend shutting down the three existing nuclear facilities, saying such a move could lead to unemployment.
As for the question of whether or not to go ahead with the construction of the fourth nuclear plant, he said it must be left to the discretion of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, adding the government must "stop, watch, and listen" when pursuing its nuclear energy policy.

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