NATIONAL CHENG KUNG UNIVERSITY, TAINAN, TAIWAN
BANYAN
Volume 10 Issue 9 - October 2, 2009
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Commentary
Yung-nane Yang
Fire Shows Up Flaws in Nuclear Plant Safety
Heng-Lu Lu
Rejuvenating Life with Music
Article Digest
Andy Ying-Guey Fuh
Tunable grating based on stressed liquid crystal
Hsin-Hsi Lai
Product design evaluation model of child car seat using gray relational analysis
Yeong-Her Wang
Selective Liquid-Phase Oxidation of InGaAs and Application to Metal–Oxide-  Semiconductor InAlAs/InGaAs Metamorphic HEMT Without Gate Recess
Chao-Liang Wu
Oct-3/4 expression reflects tumor progression and regulates motility of bladder cancer cells
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Editorial Group
Fire Shows Up Flaws in Nuclear Plant Safety
Yung-nane Yang

Professor of Department of Political Science and
UDD Director & AVP for R&D, National Cheng Kung University

(Taipei Times http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2009/06/25/2003447055 )
Thursday, Jun 25, 2009, Page 8


On June 12, a fire broke out at the Third Nuclear Power Plant (核三廠) in Hengchun (恆春), Pingtung County, triggering concern and criticism from both the public and environmental groups.

Although Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台灣電力公司) immediately announced the cause of the fire, its explanation kept changing and thus failed to calm concerns. This incident highlights loopholes in Taiwan's nuclear safety system.

MESS

The nuclear safety system is in a mess. Atomic Energy Council (AEC) Chairman Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) commented that the plant caught fire too often — this was the third fire in 29 years of operation.

This makes one wonder whether the plant's monitoring, prevention, alert and communication mechanisms are not seriously flawed.

Despite the advantages of nuclear energy, all countries attach great importance to nuclear safety because of the potentially disastrous consequences of radiation leaks.

CONFUSION

The confusion created by the responses from Taipower and the AEC after the fire reveal that the nuclear safety system is vulnerable both from an organizational and an operational perspective.

The existing communication mechanism is full of loopholes. From Taipower's constantly changing explanations of the fire, we can surmise that there are problems with its procedure for issuing public statements.

This indicates that an appropriate emergency response system responsible for making unified statements to the public has not been set up.

In addition, the plant's recent emergency fire drill involved a transformer, which was precisely where the fire occurred. I suspect that the company's management paid little attention to the drill or the soundness of the emergency response system.

PHOTOGRAPHS

In photographs published by the media, the smoke from the scene could be seen from several kilometers away. The early warning system — including safety monitoring, prevention and disaster information transmission — were either out of order or nonexistent and that is what led to this incident. The system simply did not work.

If we can learn from this and build a complete early warning system, we will be able to detect and prevent similar fires in a timely manner.

I think that there may be serious loopholes in the nuclear safety system that has been jointly developed by Taipower and the AEC.

The operation of Taiwan's atomic agency is falling short when it comes to nuclear safety. Maybe this is because nuclear power requires high-tech staff.

NOT INTEGRATED

I suspect that the problem is that high-tech staff from several different fields may not be fully "integrated." I also suspect that there is a shortage of people in the high-tech industry from the fields of humanistic or social studies, and that may be one of the reasons why it is difficult to merge nuclear power with society at large.

To sum up, in response to the latest fire, Taipower and the AEC should certainly investigate human error. But more importantly, they should strengthen Taiwan's nuclear safety system.

Making scapegoats out of a few low-level Taipower officials is not going to help improve the nation's nuclear safety mechanisms.

TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
Copyright National Cheng Kung University