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Nuke plant safety procedures questioned

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Emergency measures conducted to handle crises in nuclear power plants do not require the abandonment or destruction of the power plants, the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) said yesterday.

The Legislative Yuan's Education and Culture Committee yesterday visited the First Nuclear Power Plant to observe its ultimate emergency measures, which would be initiated in an emergency situation.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) said that President Ma Ying-jeou's statement that the ultimate emergency measures can destroy the entire nuclear power plant in the event of a meltdown to avoid radiation from contaminating the environment was shocking.

“I hope that this trip will help people understand how the emergency measures work,” said Chiu.

According to Taiwan Power Company (Taipower), there are three key conditions that will cause workers to initiate emergency procedures, including a nuclear reactor losing the ability to pump water, loss of power by electric generators, and a cut-off of power to electric generators during earthquakes and the issuing of tsunami warnings by the Central Weather Bureau.

Taipower said that when one of these three situations takes place, power plant workers will have everything ready within an hour and wait for the supervisor's order to pour either seawater or freshwater into the reactors to prevent them from overheating.

AEC Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) said that the public usually considers ultimate emergency measures as abandoning a nuclear power plant, but in fact they are not the same.

“Each nuclear power plant is equipped with a pool containing 100,000 tons of fresh water, and a nuclear reactor can still be used even after water is poured inside,” said Tsai.

“However, if the workers pour seawater inside a nuclear reactor, the salt contained inside the water will destroy the equipment inside the nuclear reactor,” said Tsai. “In this case, the nuclear reactor cannot be used anymore.”

Tsai said that the cooling effect of fresh water and seawater is the same, but the only time sea water would be used is when reserves of fresh water are used up.

Taipower Deputy Manager Chen Pu-tsan (陳布燦) said that destruction of a nuclear power plant when conducting ultimate emergency measures is not a precise notion.

“Even if a nuclear power plant loses the capability to generate electricity after seawater is used to cool the reactor, radiation is still covered by containment buildings, which means that people's health will not be affected,” said Chen.

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Two workers from the First Nuclear Power Plant take part in a drill, carrying out the ultimate emergency measures in New Taipei City, yesterday. The Legislative Yuan's Education ...

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