‘Most nuclear plants are more akin to a surgical center, very neat, regulated and clean. Taipower plants are more like the back room of a lousy auto parts store. If the Fukushima situation happened at the Guosheng plant, I am sure it would have been way worse, much faster’
As the nuclear crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant continues to threaten the health of millions of Japanese, the safety of Taiwan’s three operational nuclear power plants and how well managed those plants are has come under greater scrutiny, especially in light of reports that leaks at the Japanese plant may have partly been the result of years of neglect and corruption.
On June 19 last year, the Taipei Times exposed problems at the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli (萬里), New Taipei City (新北市), after a US diving company alleged that staff were treating the suppression pool as a “garbage dump.”
Robert Greenspan, president of South Dakota-based Midco Diving and Marine Services, told the Taipei Times that the pool, which would play a critical coolant role during a nuclear emergency (when the energy produced by the reactor core is greater than the energy removed), had contained inordinate amounts of silt and various foreign objects, such as cable spools, oxygen tanks and masks — all highly radioactive. According to foreign material exclusion rules, any object that is taken into a suppression pool must be taken out, as foreign objects can disturb the flow of water in the tank and cause jamming.
Contracted by Ming Tai (閩台), a Taiwanese firm, Midco conducted underwater maintenance in Unit 2 at the plant in November 2008 and Unit 1 in March 2009. However, Greenspan said there was so much foreign material in the Unit 1 pool that divers were unable to complete their work in the 10 days given them. An ensuing contractual dispute prevented Midco from returning to the site.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here with excerpts from a final report on maintenance at the No. 2 plant, shocking allegations by Greenspan, and responses from Taipower.