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Taiwan nuclear malfunction shuts down plant

A safety mechanism triggered by a high level of feed water shut down one of the two reactors in the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant — or the First Nuclear Power Plant — on Thursday, the Taiwan Power Company (Taipower, 台電) said.

The exact cause of the incident is still under investigation, Taipower said, while stressing that there had been no radioactive leak.

At 1:10 p.m., the safety mechanism reportedly caused a steam turbine freeze, and then the boiling water reactor’s automatic shutdown.

A glitch in the device that controls the water level resulted in “more inflow than outflow” and consequently the steam turbine froze, said Taipower spokesman Lin Te-fu (林德福).

The design of the reactor is similar to a large barrel and a set water level must be maintained, Lin explained. The reactor is currently in the “safe shutdown” mode, the spokesman added.

When the reactor may be reactivated is pending an investigation into the incident, the Atomic Energy Council (AEC, 原能會) said.

The facility may be back in service sooner if the problem was caused by a mechanical glitch, but will take longer otherwise, said AEC Chairman Chou Yuan-ching (周源卿).

The event occurred when the electricity reserve margin — the generating capacity available to meet short-term demand if a generator goes down — fell to 7.84 percent yesterday.

There are no power shortage concerns, as temperatures are expected to stay low in the coming days, Taipower said.

Anti-Nuclear Demonstration to Take Place

Many in Taiwan still oppose the use of nuclear power. An anti-nuclear march has been staged for this coming weekend on March 12. It will mark the sixth large-scale demonstration of such a kind since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Residents along Taiwan’s north coast, where the First, Second and Fourth Nuclear Power Plants are located, are inviting members of the public to their neighborhoods, not only to understand the natural and human landscapes there, but also to better understand why nuclear abolition would be good for the area.

Due to the facilities’ older parts and components, there have been more malfunctions in the First and Second Nuclear Power Plants, the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance (綠色公民行動聯盟) said, adding that the power plants ought to be retired without delay.

Lin Chuan-neng (林全能), head of the Economics Ministry’s Bureau of Energy (能源局), said that whether the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will be put into service hinges on the state of power use in the next three years. It may be decided by a public vote, Lin said.

The power plant, which is currently closed, may be activated in the future in times of need, Lin said, adding that Taiwan should have multiple energy supply sources.

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