• Kyodo

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A Chernobyl-like accident at Taiwan’s planned fourth nuclear plant would immediately kill more than 8,700 people in the northern part of the island and almost 3.5 million more from radiation-related illnesses such as cancer, Japanese researchers warned Thursday.

Fatalities would top 28,000, or 0.1 percent of the island’s population, if people were not evacuated from northern Taiwan within a week of such an accident, the scientists said in a report, which recommends that the Taipei government abandon the controversial project.

Those dying from cancer and other aftereffects of radiation exposure would total at least 7.1 million, or 30 percent of Taiwan’s population, if evacuations were to take longer than a week, they said.

“An early evacuation effectively decreases the (number of) victims, but cannot be accomplished in overcrowded cities in the northern part of Taiwan,” they said in the report.

Local opponents of the plant commissioned scientists at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute and the Department of Engineering at state-run Shizuoka University to project the possible loss of life in the event of a major accident at the plant.

The scientists used computers to simulate a loss of coolant at the plant, resulting in a reactor core meltdown and the release of radiation outside the plant over a wide area.

The same process was behind the accident at Russia’s Chernobyl plant in 1986, the worst-ever disaster at a nuclear facility.

“Assuming the release of radioactive mist would continue for three hours and the wind would blow west, we found a severe impact on human health,” says the report, compiled by Hiro Komura, a professor at Shizuoka University, and his colleagues.

“It would be most advisable to abandon the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant,” it says.

The report notes that more people than projected might die in the longer term from eating food contaminated with radiation.

Taiwan’s new administration, which took power in May, has frozen construction of the plant, some 40 km east of Taipei, on the island’s northeastern coast, while a reassessment of the project is carried out.

In the event of a large-scale accident, the 13,700 residents of Kungliao, located just 1.7 km from the plant, would be exposed to lethal levels of radiation within 14 minutes, the report says.

People living within 10.5 km of the plant would have a 99 percent probability of dying from exposure to radiation even if they were able to leave the area within a day.

Radioactive mist would reach Taipei within six hours, the report says.

The plant, which will use two Japanese-made advanced boiling water-type reactors, was originally to go into operation in 2004 and to generate 1,350 megawatts of electricity once it was fully operational.

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