Two in detention over nuclear plant construction scandal

The China Post staff

Two men are being held incommunicado after judges in Kaohsiung ruled yesterday that there was significant evidence linking them with a corruption scandal surrounding faulty work being done on Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant. Chen Chih-kuang, a supervisor for the China Shipbuilding Corp. (CSBC), and Lee Hsin-ching, the president of Huang-chieh Construction Co., were both taken to a detention center after the three judges gave their ruling. The current investigation is focusing on sub-standard welding done on the foundation for the power plant’s nuclear reactor. China Shipbuilding won the contract for the project from the Taiwan Power Corp. and subcontracted the work out to the New Asia Construction and Development Corporation. New Asia then turned around and contracted Huang-chieh to do the welding on the work. A third man, Chen Han-chuan, a welder working on the project, was set free after posting bail of NT$50,000. The detentions followed a series of searches and interviews by prosecutors in Kaohsiung on Friday night. Five different searches were conducted involving twelve people, including four CSBC supervisors and the president of Chien-tseng Corp., another company contracted to do work on the foundation. Investigators working on the case say that they have strong evidence showing that subcontractors did not follow contract specifications for welding.

Instead, they managed to save over NT$3 million of the NT$8 million the welding was originally supposed to have cost by cutting corners on materials and work, according to court papers filed by prosecutors. The poor quality of the work, which was to have housed the power plant’s nuclear reactor, seriously compromised the safety of the plant, prosecutors said. Investigators say they will be looking for further evidence of collusion between Huang-chieh Construction and CSBC, including whether the subcontractors rigged bidding on the work. Already they say they have evidence suggesting that CSBC site supervisor Chen Chih-kuang took bribes from construction firm executives, including all-expense paid visits to night-clubs. The investigation came on the heels of findings earlier this month by the Atomic Energy Council that welding on the steel structure did not meet contract parameters. In related news, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) reprimanded 22 people at CBSC and Taipower as a result of its own investigation into the construction scandal. As expected, CBSC was found to be more at fault than Taipower with respect to the substandard work. Work on the project, which is taking place largely at CBSC’s Kaohsiung facilities, has not been completed, meaning that Taipower has yet to take delivery of the structure. Please see NUCLEAR on page

The MOEA report found that the problems had arisen due to a failure to implement the quality control procedures that were already set forth. CBSC president Chian Yuan-chang was given a demerit for the lack supervision, while vice-president Fan Kuang-nan was given two demerits for what was termed poor guidance. Nine other CBSC employees, including welding supervisor Chen Chih-kuang, who is currently being held in detention in Kaohsiung, were also reprimanded or issued demerits. Chen was given a demerit for his poor supervision of on-site work. Another eleven workers at Taipower’s Longmen construction site, the location where the power plant is being built, were also reprimanded for supervisory oversights. The punishments are official admonishments which are entered into the employees’ work records and can lead to demotion or even dismissal from the state-run enterprise.