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Taiwan: Safety Precautions Instituted in Light of Fukushima Crisis

(Mar. 18, 2011) On March 15, 2011, as part of its response to the Fukushima nuclear reactor crisis, Taiwan's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) installed a radiation detector at Songshan airport to screen passengers arriving from Japan. Installation of the detectors at other Taiwan airports was planned for the following day. While screening is not mandatory, passengers suspected of having been exposed to radiation are to be transferred to a hospital for observation. In light of the crisis in Japan, President Ma Ying-jeou stated that his government would re-evaluate Taiwan's measures for nuclear plant protection and disaster management and strengthen drills on accident prevention. According to Ma, “[a]lthough the country's nuclear plants can withstand similar conditions to those seen in Japan, we must take all necessary steps to enhance existing safety procedures.” (Meg Chang, President Ma Vows to Step Up Nuclear Safety Measures, TAIWAN TODAY (Mar. 16, 2011).)

As of September 2010, Taiwan had six nuclear power reactors in operation and two under construction; four General Electric boiling water reactors and two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors, distributed in three nuclear power plants. The Taipower utility, under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, operates all of the units, whose lifetimes were expected to be 40 years (construction of the first unit began in 1972; startup was in 1978). (Nuclear Power in Taiwan (Sept. 20, 2010), World Nuclear Association website.) In mainland China there are 13 operational nuclear power reactors and more than 25 new reactors already under construction, with plans for construction to start soon on additional ones. (Nuclear Power in China (Mar. 1, 2011), World Nuclear Association website.)

Among the key items of legislation governing the safety of nuclear reactors in Taiwan are: