TAIPEI (Reuters) - A nuclear power plant in Taiwan may have been leaking radioactive water for three years, according to a report published by the government's watchdog, adding to uncertainty over the fate of a new fourth nuclear power plant.
The First Nuclear Power Plant, located at Shihmen in a remote northern coastal location but not far from densely populated Taipei, has been leaking toxic water from storage pools of two reactors, said the watchdog, called the Control Yuan.
An official of Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), which operates the island's nuclear power plants, said the water did not come from the storage pools, but may have come from condensation or water used for cleaning up the floor.
"We have explained to the Control Yuan, but they turned it down. They asked us to look into if other causes were involved," said the official. He declined to be identified as the matter is sensitive.
In any case, the water has been collected in a reservoir next to the storage pools used for spent nuclear rods and has been recycled back into the storage pools, and so poses no threat to the environment, the official added.
The Control Yuan said there had been a catalogue of errors, including a lack of a proper plan for how to handle spent nuclear materials, and did not believe the explanations from Taipower.
"The company has yet to clearly establish the reason for the water leak," it said.
The use of nuclear power on resource-poor Taiwan has long been controversial, not least because the island is comparatively small and any major nuclear accident would likely affect its entire land area.
Nuclear power accounts for 18.4 percent of electricity production.
Plans to build a fourth nuclear plant - located close to the one at Shihmen - have been held up for years, and have been subject to mass protests on the streets of the island.
Scuffles broke out between legislators at a parliamentary debate on the plant this week.
Currently, Taiwan has three operational nuclear power plants and six reactors.
Taiwan has also had problems on what to do with its nuclear waste, which for many years was dumped on a small island off its southeast coast, to the anger of its aboriginal inhabitants.
Taiwan has previously considered sending its nuclear waste to the Pacific Ocean state of the Marshall Islands and even North Korea.
(Reporting by Faith Hung; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)