Saturday, March 09, 2013

Nuke Referendum Round Up =UPDATE=

The kids playing air hockey in Keelung.

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).

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.
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:
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.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Mike Fagan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike Fagan said...

The KMT can only ask their (surely presumed?) supporters to stay home, they cannot compel them to, no?

It might yet be the KMT is going to get its' collective arse well and truly kicked all over the shop in this referendum.

The anti-nuclear movement might do better to increase their emphasis on arguing from economic premises rather than an overwhelming focus on safety; citing the Fukushima example in which only three people died, in which the partial meltdown took place over an extended period of time and with ifs, buts and maybes over future deaths from increased risk of cancers makes them look like scaremongers (and of course, that is what some of them are). They might persuade a wider spectrum of people, for example, by citing the possibility of quakes and tsunamis in terms of reconstruction costs: a nuclear plant is much more expensive to replace or repair (assuming repair is even a possibility) in terms of both time and dollar costs than are coal or gas fired power stations.

歐陽軒 said...

I attended the event in Taipei and it sure was massive (and even cheerful at times), but I wonder whether people there realize that stopping nuclear power plants in Taiwan would likely increase the use of coal -- which direct negative health effects often outweigh even the potential danger from nucleus... After all, we breathe the air every day, while nuclear disasters don't have to happen in one's lifetime.

Michael Turton said...

The dread factor for nukes is very high. Everyone says the same thing: if the Japanese can't handle it, then how can Taipower?

I wish they would go after the coal plant. 100% renewables now!


Anonymous said...

While I will certainly vote in the referendum to stop the construction, and like you Michael, would like to see them shut the coal plants down as well, I don't think the actual referendum question or process is problematic. Anyone with more than an elementary school education can tell the difference between a negatively phrased question or a positively phrased one. As for the threshold for success that has been talked about recently, the 50/50 rule is more than fair. For something to pass at the minimum that would only represent 25% of the voting public. The DPP's suggestion to drop the participation threshold to 25% would mean the minimum passing level would only represent 12.5% of the voting population, which is way too low.

One of the nice things about yesterdays rally was that is was fairly bipartisan. The DPP didn't hijack the cause like they often do, and wisely took a back seat. The actual participants were from a cross section of society, from both green and blue political backgrounds. Any fears that the KMT will tell their supporters to stay home (and they are just fears) won't amount to much when some of the most anti-nuclear people are blue voters.


Mike Fagan said...

100% renewables now!"

Batteries not included, of course!

Until cheap "ultracapacitors" arrive on the market, then it doesn't matter how many wind turbines or solar arrays are built; the shortfalls in peak load moments will have to be met by coal or gas fired power plants. And the companies that run these plants will need financial incentives to to compensate them for operating in this way.

All of that is of course wrong if the actual objective is not so much clean energy, but less energy, as a reading of the anti-nuclear group's 5th imperative ("zero growth in electricity demand") would seem to suggest.

Michael Turton said...

Anyone with more than an elementary school education can tell the difference between a negatively phrased question or a positively phrased one.

Yes, the DPP's complaints about the wording make them sound like they are whining.

As for the threshold for success that has been talked about recently, the 50/50 rule is more than fair

That would be true, if the KMT were committed to good faith action and building a better and more democratic Taiwan. The Double 50 rule is only a problem because of the way the KMT operates.

I sure hope it backfires and lots of blues go out to vote.


Anonymous said...

"Everyone says the same thing: if the Japanese can't handle it, then how can Taipower?"

This is what I keep hearing and it's driving me crazy. It always sounds like "if our superhuman former colonizers can't handle this, how could we dogshit Taiwanese possibly be able to?" I for one find Taiwan's relatively healthy democracy much more trustworthy than Japan's relatively moribund one.

Now you may be right that for other reasons the plants could be bad for Taiwan -- although the certainty of coal replacing them is not a happy thought. But the Fukushima "lesson" seems to have found a very irrational perch here. Maybe "dread factor" is a legitimate reason to quit nuclear power, taking mental health into account -- that seems to be the main issue in Japan now. But maybe it's not.

J said...

I'm curious specifically about the 1781 quake. During that time, the world was in a mini-ice-age so I'm curious if those weather patterns (potentially fewer typhoons and other large low pressure systems) contributed to it happening and explains why we haven't seen one since. Remember, typhoons trigger slow quakes in Taiwan and is one of the reasons why Taiwan experiences *fewer* very high magnitude quakes than Japan even though the plates would indicate otherwise.

Michael Turton said...

"I for one find Taiwan's relatively healthy democracy much more trustworthy than Japan's relatively moribund one."

I think the level of incompetence and corruption in the construction industrial state is about equal in each.

"" Remember, typhoons trigger slow quakes in Taiwan and is one of the reasons why Taiwan experiences *fewer* very high magnitude quakes than Japan even though the plates would indicate otherwise""

What evidence is there that Taiwan experiences fewer high magnitude events? "Japan" is a lot bigger than Taiwan. Naturally you might perceive it as experiencing more high magnitude events. Recorded human experience in Taiwan is short; an eyeblink.....


AV&VA SEO said...

I've sent the request to JIANG Yi-huah, Premier, Executive Yuan

with the following content:

Dear Sir,
A Legislative Yuan resolution on Feb. 26 stated that no additional budget for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant would be allocated before a national referendum on its future is held and placed a moratorium on Taipower placing new tenders and installing fuel rods.
However, the Longmen Construction Office at Taipower’s Department of Nuclear and Fossil Power Projects, which is in charge of the construction of the plant, violated the resolution by announcing a tender for a heat-tracing system on the company’s Web site on 06.March, 2103.
State-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) has violated a legislative resolution by putting out a new construction tender for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
Please investigate this very important issue for the World Safety.
“Money” is important. But life is better.

It would be interesting his reaction.

In any case - we wish Taiwan would win this struggle.

With best regards in Your endeavors.