Taiwan's Nuke 4 officials invite media to tour facility, guarantee safety

A general view shows Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant in northern Gongliao district, Taipei on March 5, 2013.

TAIPEI - Taiwan's controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant opened its doors to some 50 media personnel yesterday, in an attempt to validate the safety of the facility to the public before its launch.

The director, Taiwan Power Co. Deputy General Manager Hsu Yun-huah, and the manager of the plant's construction department, Ke Chih-ming, gathered at the complex yesterday to introduce the plant to some 50 journalists and reporters.

Ke said there is no earthquake fault zone within a 35-kilometre radius of the plant. In addition, the plant includes systems designed prevent damage from tsunamis or flooding, he said.

"In the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has improved its safety standards," he said. "This includes building tsunami barriers and adding hoses to the coolant pool in case an earthquake causes a breakage in the original pipes."

Hsu said that there would be years of compensation in the aftermath of a halt to Nuke 4. "This includes paying for damages caused by breach of contract, a reasonable compensation mechanism, and the dismantling or maintenance of the facilities," he said.

He added that delaying by one year the launch of Nuke 4 would cost Taipower NT$7 billion to NT$8 billion (S$289 million to S$330 million) in compensation for workers, interest payments or other losses. If Nuke 4 begins operation after any potential referendum in 2015, the average electricity prices per kilowatt-hour would be no more than NT$2, Hsu added.

Factory Director Wang Po-huei said more than NT$330 billion would be lost if the government decided to scrap the entire project, stressing that the plant is safe.

In 2000, the safety of Nuke 4 was brought into question after nuclear experts and some insiders insisted that the plant was highly dangerous. Many people speculated that it was poorly assembled by inexperienced US, Japanese and Taiwanese companies, calling it an "assembled car."

Earlier this week, Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch refuted the statement, saying that Nuke 4 underwent "rigorous" integration and testing and that it was inappropriate to call it an "assembled car."

Chang noted that, in an attempt to put concerns to rest, his ministry has convened a safety inspection team that is expected to spend around six months inspecting the plant.

To end the controversy surrounding the plant, Premier Jiang Yi-huah proposed a referendum to determine its fate, which President Ma Ying-jeou supports. "It is essential to include the people's opinion in this heavily contested issue," said Jiang.

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