One wonders whether Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate, is aware that the mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮), also known as the Longmen Nuclear Power Plant, is fitted with a deployable communication and information system (DCIS), or that the whole plant uses digital technology, with a system that is untested elsewhere.
Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) on Feb. 2 issued a news release that said: “The design of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant’s safety instrument system [SIS] is the only one of its kind in the world and should have been replaced 20 years ago; in addition, the supplier no longer makes the system, and spares are difficult to source.”
The issue of finding a supplier for an SIS system for the plant is complex and the system’s interface entails a great deal of technology.
It was eventually decided that General Electric (GE) would supply the entire system, but that company appears to have exited the market for supplying digital instrument control systems, so there is little way to safely restart work on or upgrade the Longmen plant.
Some have suggested looking to Japan for ways the plant can be upgraded, as some Japanese nuclear plants also use a DCIS. However, a research report on the plant’s instrument control system published in 2003 by Taipower nuclear generation engineer Chen Mao-yuan (陳茂元) said that the world’s sole advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) using a similar system is Japan’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, but the DCIS there is used at a much reduced scope than the one in the Longmen plant.
In 1998, Institute of Nuclear Energy Research associate researcher Hsu Hsien-hsing (徐?星) and others published a paper on digital instrument control system technologies used in Japan, Germany and France, and how they could be implemented in the Longmen plant and for the Taiwan Research Reactor System Improvement and Utilization Promotion Project.
The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant ABWR network employs separate sets of cables — one for the control signal and the other for transmitting warning signals — and differed from the one at the Longmen plant, it said.
The dual network design used in the Japanese plant could lighten the load on individual networks and mitigate problems with response times, as well as reduce the complexity of the instrument control system, it said.
Clearly, the instrument control system used in the Longmen plant is far more complex than the one in the Japanese plant.
Does Han intend to look into the design of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant when he considers restarting work on or upgrading the Longmen plant?
In 2009, Taipower nuclear technology engineer Wu Tung-ming (吳東明) attended the Sixth American Nuclear Society International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Plant Instrumentation, Control and Human-Machine Interface Technologies in Tennessee. In his report of the trip, Wu said these conferences are the major platforms for exchanges in the field of instrumentation, control and human interfaces, and very few organizations or experts actively engaged in these fields would forgo the opportunity to attend.
And yet, GE has not sent representatives to these conferences for several consecutive years. Neither has it exhibited at any related industrial shows, leading Wu to wonder whether GE was still competing in the field of digital instruments, or whether it had exited the game altogether.