Taiwan’s Aging Nuclear Plant Worries Experts

Taiwan’s Aging Nuclear Plant Worries Experts
Photo Credit: 黃正光 @ Flickr CC BY SA 2.0
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An investigation at a 38-year-old nuclear power plant in southern Taiwan has left experts worried about the plant’s safety.

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It has been almost 40 years since Taiwan’s Maanshan Nuclear Power Plant in Pingtung — also known as No. 3 — started operating, and safety incidents are becoming more frequent.

Twice this year the plant’s carbon dioxide (CO2) fire protection system was activated to extinguish fires. Operator Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) claims the system was inadvertently triggered. However, an investigation carried out by the Pingtung Country Government has determined that the fire alarm was set off by the short circuit of 30-year-old cables at the plant.

According to Next Magazine, on May 28 the constant-temperature fire protection system of plant’s second gas turbine engine detected high temperatures and started to spray carbon dioxide powder. The engine room soon filled with smoke.

While this was the second such incident this year. In the past two years the fire alarm was activated more than 10 times. In those cases as well, the operator claimed that the fire protection system was activated accidentally.

The Pingtung County Government recently arranged for independent nuclear experts to inspect the plant.

Their investigation shows that while the fire protection system at the plant is working well, the activation of the system was mainly caused by the short circuit of aging cables. They say the cables have not been replaced since construction of the plant was completed in 1978.

The experts worry that if the cables caught fire, the flames could spread to the engine room and potentially cause a nuclear disaster.

Responding to the investigation's conclusions, Taipower reaffirmed its claim that the fire protection system was activated due to an error signal received by the detective system. There wasn’t any fire and the cables didn’t burn, it says.

The Pingtung County Government said accidents at the Maanshan Nuclear Power Plant have occurred too frequently and that it plans to ramp-up the frequency of inspections.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang