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July 27, 2017

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Chernobyl anniversary spurs anti-nuclear calls

TAIPEI -- Environmental activists and New Taipei councilors called on the government Sunday — Earth Day — to scrap Taiwan's nuclear power plants.

Speaking at a forum to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Kuo Cheng-deng, chairman of the Healthy Taiwan Society, said that "we are here to commemorate the Chernobyl disaster, the most serious nuclear disaster in human history."

"We should ask ourselves if the March 11 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, the Chernobyl disaster or the Three-Mile Island accident in the United States were to occur in Taiwan, what should we do?" asked Kuo, also a medical research chief at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

Kuo noted at the forum in New Taipei that Taiwan is smaller than Russia, the United States and Japan. "Where would we escape to in the event of a nuclear disaster?" he asked.

Jay Fang, chairman of the Green Consumers' Foundation, said the discovery of cracked anchor bolts at the No. 2 nuclear power plant in Wanli, New Taipei, indicates metal fatigue and an aging structure.

"If your pressure cooker has a broken bolt, do you dare use it?" he asked.

During routine safety checks of the plant March 16, Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) found that one of 120 anchor bolts attaching the plant's first reactor to its concrete base was broken, while six others were cracked.

According to the state-run company that operates the country's nuclear plants, all the problematic bolts have been replaced and the affected reactor has been certified by its designer as ready to resume operations.

However, Fang accused the company of misleading the public, saying that the distribution of the cracked bolts shows evidence of shear stress and that the reactor could collapse in the worst-case scenario.

Shih Hsin-min, founding chairman of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, called on the government to shut down all the country's nuclear plants and stop construction of the fourth one.

He said environmental groups are pushing for a law revision to allow people living within 50 km of a nuclear plant to vote to decide the fate of such facilities.

"Today is Earth Day, a day that began years ago when college students got together to call for the protection of the Earth," said Shih.

"We call for more young people to take part in environmental movements and to realize the true spirit of the day," he said.

In the wake of last year's March 11 disaster in Japan, civic and environmental groups around the country have been stepping up their calls for the government to close Taiwan's nuclear plants, which they see as a threat to the country's survival.

Taipower has said that if the No. 4 plant can provide a steady supply of power by 2015, its No. 1 plant could be closed down two years ahead of schedule.

The government has also said that it will not extend the operating lives of the three existing nuclear plants.

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