20131218 AEC criticized on Jinshan plant safety
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AEC criticized on Jinshan plant safety

IN THE DARK: Almost 10 hours after the incident, the council’s vice chairman said he had not been informed about it. He later told reporters it was not a big problem

By Tang Chia-ling and Stacy Hsu / Staff reporter, with staff writer

Anti-nuclear advocates yesterday took the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) to task for allegedly being in the dark for as long as 10 hours about an incident in the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant’s second reactor yesterday, renewing worries about the safety of the nation’s accident-plagued nuclear facilities.

Low lube oil pressure caused a built-in lube oil pump in one of the reactor’s two recirculation pumps to trip at 4:18am, disengaging the coupling between the oil pump and a motor.

According to standard procedures at the power plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Shihmen District (石門)), technicians then inserted control rods, reduced the operating speed of the other recirculation pump and decreased the reactor’s power level to 250,000 kilowatts.

The reactor returned to normal operations at 1:19pm.

Asked to comment on the incident at 2pm yesterday, council spokesman and Vice Chairman Chou Yuan-ching (周源卿) said he was not aware of it.

About 30 minutes later, Chou came back with an explanation.

“Every reactor is equipped with two recirculation pumps that are each responsible for [controlling the flow of] 50 percent of the water through the core. The accident was caused by the malfunction of a lube oil pump within one of the second reactor’s recirculation pumps, causing the reactor’s capacity to decrease to about 40 percent of its normal level,” Chou said.

State-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) reported the incident to the council’s Department of Nuclear Regulation immediately, Chou said.

“However, as the accident was not considered threatening to public safety, the department did not demand a shutdown or notify me,” Chou said.

Green Citizens’ Action Alliance director-general Lai Wei-chieh (賴偉傑) criticized the council’s stance, saying that given the level of public concern about nuclear safety, the council should not have listened only to Taipower’s side of the story.

“Given the First [Jinshan] Nuclear Power Plant’s relatively outdated facilities, any small problem could be a prelude to a bigger accident,” Lai said.

Green Consumers Foundation chairman Jay Fang (方儉) linked the incident to the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011, saying the meltdown was caused by a loss of coolant in reactors after power outages [triggered by an earthquake and tsunami] prevented the recirculation pumps from sending water to the cores.

Taipower should have closed the second reactor for a comprehensive examination, rather than “forcing” it to resume operation, Fang said.

“The council is supposed to be on high alert for any reactor accidents, yet it was clueless about the incident 10 hours later. I think what should be decommissioned first is not the Jinshan plant, but the council,” Fang said.

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