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Taiwan watchdog agency says nuclear plant leak has not been stopped; operator downplays threat

In this June 12, 2013 photo, the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is seen through a bus window in Okuma, in Fukushima prefecture.
In this June 12, 2013 photo, the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is seen through a bus window in Okuma, in Fukushima prefecture. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Noboru Hashimoto

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan’s government watchdog said a small leak at one of the island’s three nuclear power plants has yet to be halted 3 1/2 years after it started.

The report comes as the island’s legislature is mired in a debate on whether to hold a referendum on operating a fourth nuclear plant, scheduled to open in 2016.

Officials at the Shihmen plant, north of Taipei, say the leak cited by the watchdog body is condensate from vapour generated by routine maintenance and posed no threat to the environment or to plant staff.

Nuclear power is a lightning rod issue in Taiwan, particularly after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in nearby Japan.

The government of President Ma Ying-jeou wants to hold a referendum to get a green light to operate the fourth plant, where work is 90 per cent completed. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party says the $9 billion facility should be abandoned because it is unsafe.

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