Tue, May 09, 2000 - Page 17 News List

Foreign exec says nuke plant vote won't solve issue

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

Deciding the fate of the fourth nuclear power plant (核四) by popular vote is a "political expedient" that won't resolve the issue, a senior foreign industry executive based in Taipei said yesterday.

In addition, he said, halting the project altogether will likely expose Taiwan's power supply to the vagaries of cross-strait ties.

The executive, who requested anonymity, said that the future of the Kungliao plant -- which Taipower says is already 30 percent complete -- needs to be dealt with "from an informed point of view."

"The business of nuclear power is sometimes an emotional subject with many people," the executive said. "I think having a plebiscite or a referendum is a political expedient to get it off everybody's hands, but it really doesn't solve the problem."

DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) last week reignited debate over the NT$170 billion plant by calling for a referendum on its future.

The proposal has gathered steam since incoming Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) called for the tendering of contracts for the project to be halted while the new government conducts a four-month review of the plant's necessity. Lin also said the matter may have to decided by a popular vote.

According to the industry executive, the plant's necessity is clear when viewed in light of Taiwan's heavy dependence on imported fuel for power generation and the precarious state of cross-strait ties.

"If [the Chinese] start intimidating oil tankers and things like that, the nuclear fuel option is the beautiful one," he said. To operate a nuclear power plant, only one small shipment is required every two years, he said.

According to Taipower (台電) spokeswoman Huang Huei-yu, a nuclear plant the size of the one planned for Kungliao produces 2,700 megawatts of power and requires just a single 81-metric ton shipment of uranium every year.

Taiwan has enough uranium reserves to last two to three years, Huang said.

In contrast, a coal-fired plant generating the same amount of power requires 5.7 million tons of coal every year, Huang said.

The industry executive also said that any alternative to the nuclear plant would not only be more expensive, but it would also be hindered by Taiwan's insufficient infrastructure.

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