AEC blasted for misleading 5-km nuclear safety guideline

The China Post news staff and CNA

The cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council (AEC) was yesterday blasted by a lawmaker for a statement posted on the council website that says the potential nuclear meltdown will only affect people within a 5-kilometer radius of the nuclear power plant. Japanese officials had already ordered the evacuation of everyone within a 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the country’s northeast region, which was badly damaged in last week’s earthquake and tsunami and is leaking radiation, said ruling Koumingtung (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-hua. The AEC website, however, said only those within a 5-kilometer radius of the nuke plant during meltdown would be affected by the radioactive fallout. Accusing the council of intentionally hiding unfavorable information regarding Taiwan’s nuclear plant, Lee demanded the council remove the“incorrect”information posted on the site, which is misleading for residents living near the nuke plants. “Both the minister and deputy minister of the AEC should take full responsibility for the incorrect information and step down from their posts,” Lee said during a meeting of the Economics Committee in the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

In response to the accusation made by the KMT lawmaker, AEC Deputy Minister Shieh Der-jhy (謝得志) said the 5-kilometer safety guideline was established following careful calculations made by local nuclear power experts. Shieh, who was slightly angered by the question, even slammed his fist on the table to show his displeasure with lawmaker’s accusation. He also defended his council’s decision to hand out potassium iodide tablets to citizens living within a 5-kilometer radius of the three operational nuke plants in Taiwan. The Fukushima Daiichi plant is 2200 kilometers away from Taiwan, Shieh said, while reassuring Taiwanese people that the possible radioactive fallout would not effect to local people. According to local media reports yesterday, the United States government has urged Americans in Japan, living within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, to move to a safer location. Meanwhile, the AEC said yesterday that of the people who returned to Taiwan from Japan over the past two days, twenty-five were detected to have mild radiation contamination but that it posed no health risks. Many of these people only had slight contamination on their clothes. One was found with radioactive particles on his arm. A technician removed the particles with duct tape. Shieh noted yesterday that so far the detected particles were within safe levels, and could be washed away by the passengers easily. He told reporters at the legislature that his agency might impose compulsory radiation detection at airports if the situation becomes worse. However, Shieh assured the media that “we have not reached that stage yet.”