UPDATE: Anti-nuke March today got tens of thousands. Enormous turnout. Very happy.
Tsunamis and the Fourth Nuke Plant
Adam Chimienti had a great piece in the Taipei Times today, pointing out that the defeat of the Shoreham Nuclear Reactor complex on Long Island back in the 1980s meant that the disaster of Hurricane Sandy did not result in flooding in reactors right off the nation's most important financial center. One of the points he made in the piece was that the Manila Trench, just off southern Taiwan, is a likely source of a massive quake in the near future. I picked up a journal paper that made the same argument, since there have been no recorded big quakes in over four centuries from that trench, meaning that a really massive one is probably building. It explores what would happen in the case of a massive quake in that Trench.
The paper observes:
It is signiﬁcant that since the Spanish colonization of Luzon in the 1560s, no earthquake exceeding magnitude 7.8 has been observed (Repetti, 1946). Conservatively, it can be postulated that very large events on this megathrust have a recurrence interval exceeding 440 years. Taking a trench-normal convergence velocity of 87 mm/yr, strain of 38 m would have accumulated over this period. Though large, this slip magnitude remains within the range of plausible scenarios. It is comparable to the 1960 Mw 9.5 Chilean earthquake, in which coseismic slip reached 40 m (Barrientos and Ward, 1990), and larger than the 2004 Aceh-Andaman event, which produced 20 m of coseismic slip (Chlieh et al., 2007).One of the propaganda claims you'll soon be hearing is that Taiwan can't produce a quake big enough to severely damage our reactors. This is nonsense (Wikipedia has a list of historical quakes in Taiwan) but we also face the problem of tsunamis. Their simulation of a massive quake/tsunami results in waves 8 meters high rolling over Luzon, with southern Taiwan getting smashed as well (extra points for identifying the location of the nuke plant there). But they also note that southern China's topographical orientation is such that 8 meter waves also smack it, despite the greater distance, meaning that....
Farther in the north, Taiwan receives the impact of reﬂections from mainland China, and the central western coast appears to suffer waves of up to 3 m in height. The southern Japanese islands of Ishigaki, Miyako and Okinawa ( 25 N, 125 E) also suffer from reﬂective waves and may experience waves of about 2 m. It appears that the reﬂective waves travel to, as far as, northern Papua ( 2 S, 137 E), which may be hit by waves of up to 2 m.That's right. A quake on the southwest corner of the island, also results in waves 3 meters high striking northern and central Taiwan. That's separate from the quake-induced shaking. The paper does not simulate the onshore effects, but they can be imagined...
The second suspected tsunami inundated Kaohsiung, southwestern Taiwan, in 1781 (Wang et al., 2006). Besides appearing in a contemporary Chinese travelogue and a Japanese historiography, it was also recorded by Dutch colonists in the 18th-century Taiwan. Flooding lasted upwards of 8 h and many villages were swept away, resulting in more than 40,000 casualties (Wang et al., 2006). Despite the severity of this event, no inland or nearshore earthquake was identiﬁed as the cause. This would be consistent with the theory that the tsunami was generated by a far-ﬁeld earthquake from off the Philippines.Historical sources say the height of the 1781 wave exceeded 20 meters. This paper offers a comprehensive list of tsunami events and wave heights in the South China Sea region.
The belief that a large tsunami has never struck Taiwan's east coast is challenged by this presentation, which draws on aboriginal folklore and field studies to show that this belief is false. This Taipei Times piece from the other day observes that Taipower is supposed to study the tsunami and earthquake record in the area, but to date no one has been appointed to carry out the study.
The wording of the referendum has been released....
If the KMT proposal is approved by the legislature, the public will be asked in a referendum: “Do you agree that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be halted and that it not become operational?” (你是否同意核四廠停止興建不得運轉)Despite the fact that the proposal originates from KMT legislators, the KMT government obviously wants to continue construction and thus can block the referendum merely by asking its supporters to stay home. That is why the referendum is worded negatively. Yes, that's right. They will put the issue on the ballot, and then ask their people to stay home. The cynicism of this would be breathtaking, if it were not the norm in politics here and abroad.
A longtime observer also pointed out that the phrase "not become operational" is deliberate. Recall that referendums can only be held on the topic at eight year intervals. By inserting that phrase at the end, the KMT then prevents a referendum on operating the plant when it becomes operational a few years from now. Indeed, the KMT whip said as much:
KMT caucus whip Lai said that the reason the KMT included “not become operational (不得運轉)” in the plebiscite question was that “otherwise, if the plebiscite failed to pass and the construction of Nuclear Power Plant No. 4 continued, then someone might propose another plebiscite on whether or not Nuclear Power Plant No. 4 should become operational. Therefore, why don’t we just solve the problem once for all in order to save the trouble.”One of the things that scares so many of us viewing this debacle is that construction in Taiwan is so often sub-par, yet this is regarded as normal and the same practices of corner-cutting and fly-by-night firms are taking place at the Fourth Nuclear Plant. This article describes:
At a separate press conference, DPP lawmakers Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) and Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純) said a construction company with a questionable record was among the subcontractors at the plant in Gongliao (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市).There was also a piece about plastic bottles being used as filler in the plants concrete walls, another common practice in Taiwan. Jenny Hsu in WSJ added:
Kuo Teng Construction Co (國登營造), which was found to be responsible for construction flaws at the Wugu-Yangmei Overpass, secured a construction bid worth more than NT$300 million (US$1 billion) for the plant.
While the winning bidder for the project listed on the Public Construction Commission’s (PCC) Web site was Cheng An Technology Co (城安新科技公司), Yeh said, its company address was the same as Kuo Teng’s, according to data provided by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Situated in the coastal Gongliao district, the plant, which is missing only fuel rods and is scheduled to begin commercial operations by 2015, has been blasted by critics as a “ticking time bomb.” Since 2008, the project has suffered a string of mishaps, including floods and small fires (in Chinese). Concerns over safety at the plant skyrocketed after Fukushima.The first three nuke plants are all scheduled to be decommissioned by 2025 according to current plans. The fourth is due to come online in 2015 or 2016 but I suspect that the KMT will push it back a couple of years, since it might not be a good idea to remind the public of KMT duplicity during a major election year (2016).
Bunch of polls on the issue out recently (here and here).
- TISR: 59.6% opposed to finishing the plant; 67% in New Taipei City where it is located.
- Business Today: 54% want it scrapped, another 23% oppose it. Just 11% trust the government to operate it properly.
- Pro-KMT China Times: 62.4% want it stopped, only 21.2% want it to continue.
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