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Taiwan nuke power plants to face OECD stress tests

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

International experts will run safety checks on Taiwan's three nuclear power plants as parts of efforts to reassure the public following Japan's nuclear meltdowns two years ago, officials said Monday.

Six experts from the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development arrived Monday at the invitation of Taiwan's nuclear regulator.

"They will visit the three nuclear power plants while browsing the related documents," Peng Chih-wei, an official from Taiwan's Atomic Energy Council, told AFP, adding that a draft report is expected to be completed by March 15.

"They will serve as an independent and unbiased third party in our efforts to enhance nuclear safety in Taiwan."

Peng said the stress tests would assess a range of issues including the plants' ability to withstand earthquakes and the capability of technicians to respond to major natural disasters.

The three plants, owned by state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) and supplying about 20 percent of the island's electricity, passed similar tests by the council last year.

But concerns about them and about a half-completed nuclear power plant have mounted since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, crippling a nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

Local activists, who have garnered growing public support for scrapping the fourth plant, are due to stage a major anti-nuclear rally in Taipei Saturday.

In reaction to the protests, Premier Jiang Yi-hua said for the first time last month that the government may support a referendum on the highly controversial project.

The plant, in the coastal Kungliao district near Taipei, is about 90 percent completed and due to come on line in 2015, according to Taipower.

Construction began in 1999 but the plant has been the subject of intense political wrangling ever since.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.

In September 1999 a 7.6-magnitude quake killed around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island's recent history.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130304/taiwan-nuke-power-plants-face-oecd-stress-tests