Daya Bay operator reassures HK

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am

The operator of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant has gone on a public relations blitz to reassure Hongkongers a nuclear accident similar to Japan's present crisis is virtually impossible.

The plant was built to stringent designs and standards, which enabled it to withstand a powerful earthquake, the operator said yesterday. Moreover, its location meant tidal waves were highly unlikely.

Chen Tai, a nuclear safety specialist at the plant, said tsunami were unlikely to develop in shallow coastal waters. The biggest recorded in Guangdong waters was less than 50 centimetres.

'The only serious casualty I can recall is that one person suffered from a broken finger,' he said.

Seismic history in the region indicated Daya Bay was not in an active seismic zone, with the area's strongest quake, measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, occurring 60 kilometres away in 1911. Chen said the plant design could withstand a quake of magnitude 8.0.

Chen said the plant had experienced no major casualties since it began operating in 1994.

But asked to comment on the ultimate disposal of spent fuel, the operator declined to provide more information because it was a 'sensitive' issue. 'Having not said much about that does not mean that it is not properly dealt with,' Chen said.

The assurances were made during a visit organised for journalists through the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, which said the visit had been planned before the crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant.

Run by Daya Bay Nuclear Power Operations and Management Company, the plant is preparing to implement safety checks ordered by Premier Wen Jiabao after the Japanese crisis unfolded. Two safety drills will be conducted in June and November.