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Taiwan: welds falsified in new scandal at Lungmen

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 28, 2002) The construction of Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (Lungmen), which was halted and then re-instated despite protests involving around 30,000 people, has hit a new scandal. According to the Atomic Energy Council, about 52% of the materials in the reactor pedestal were replaced by "inferior goods which are less pressure-resistant".

(570.5420) WISE Amsterdam - The inferior materials were used in constructing the second to fifth layers of the pedestal which is intended to support the nuclear reactor. According to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutor's Office, inferior welding materials were used at 282 points, and an attempt was made to hide this by covering with materials that meet quality standards. The Atomic Energy Council said that about 52% of materials were replaced with "inferior goods which are less pressure-resistant".

The state-run China Shipbuilding Corp. is responsible for building the reactor pedestal at the 2-reactor nuclear power station for Taipower, the state-owned utility. China Shipbuilding in turn subcontracted the work to New Asia Construction and Development Corporation.

On 15 June, the Ministry of Economic Affairs handed out punishments in the form of demerits to 22 officials of the two state-run firms for "allowing sloppy workmanship." Not a single high-ranking official was in that list, but prosecutors now say they suspect high-ranking officials of China Shipbuilding or other influential political figures may have received commissions in exchange for awarding contracts to certain subcontractors.

Anti-nuclear activists and lawmakers have demanded an expansion of the investigation, saying that there are probably other construction defects. Lai Wei-chieh, secretary-general of the Green Citizens' Action Alliance, said: "Construction defects surrounding the pedestal were just part of Taipower's problems. We hope prosecutors can probe into the problem of Taipower's failure to supervise plant construction thoroughly."

The construction of Lungmen has been highly controversial, with protests involving tens of thousands of people. The issue even led to the resignation of Tang Fei as premier of Taiwan (see WISE News Communique 535.5204: "Taiwan: Committee votes to stop construction of Lungmen, premier resigns"). Construction was halted in October 2000 (see WISE News Communique 538.5217: "Taiwan: Lungmen cancellation announced, political row continues") only to be re-instated in February 2001 (see WISE News Communique 543.5245, "Taiwan: two sides to the nuclear coin").

The country's Third Nuclear Power Plant has also recently experienced problems, with a shutdown caused by failure of a component on 6 June and another caused by water spillage from a cracked pipe on 16 June.

Sources: The Taipei Times Online, 12, 18 and 23 June 2002

Contact: Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), 2nd Fl., 107, section 3, Ting-Chou Road, Taipei, Taiwan Tel: +886 2 2367 8335 or 2363 6419. Fax: +886 2 2364 4293