Taiwan nuclear power plant may be leaking radioactive water

Storage pools for spent fuel rods at Taiwan's First Nuclear Power Plant located in the densely populated north of the island may be leaking radioactive water, the island's government watchdog said Thursday.

The Control Yuan said in a report that the storage pools for plant's two reactors in Chinshan, New Taipei City, may have been leaking since 2009.

The operator of the facility, Taiwan Power Co., has been unable to determine the cause of the leakage, which the Control Yuan said has increased over the years.

The report quoted Chen Yi-pin, director of the Atomic Energy Council's Department of Nuclear Regulation, as saying that he could not be sure whether the water is coming from the storage pools, but neither could he rule out such a possibility.

Taipower spokesman Chai Fu-feng told Kyodo News on Thursday that the water collected in the reservoir next to the storage pools of spent fuel rod pools does not pose any threat as it has been recycled back to the storage pools.

Chai said the water did not come from the storage pools but instead may have come from condensation or water used for cleaning up the floor.

The Control Yuan also censured Taipower in the report for failing to complete the interim dry storage facilities for spent fuel rods at the reactor site of the No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants.

Taipower had originally planned to complete the above-ground facilities by 2000 and 2001, respectively.

Taiwan has three operational nuclear power plants and six reactors, while a fourth one is still under construction.

Reactor fuel rods need to be replaced with fresh ones every 18 months. Discharged fuel assemblies must be continually cooled in water pools for many years after they are no longer useful for generating electricity.

The water pools at the First Nuclear Power Plant in Chinshan, 41 kilometers away from the capital city of Taipei, are nearing capacity.

Before a deep geological disposal site is available in 2053, the used fuel will be kept in dry casks at an above-ground facility at the reactor site.

Authorities say dry cask storage is the most cost-effective and environmentally sound. A dry cask is a sealed metal cylinder enclosed by a metal and two concrete outer shells designed to secure the spent fuel.