Fri, Feb 02, 2001 - Page 17 News List

Nuclear power plant contractors may be getting cold feet

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

Signs that contractors building the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四) are getting cold feet have begun to appear as the delay in construction drags into its fourth month.

The largest of the domestic contractors, New Asia Construction and Development Corp (新亞建設), last week requested the Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) give them clear indication on whether the project will proceed or be canceled, according to executives at both companies.

New Asia made the request under pressure from its own subcontractors, who have previously made it clear that if the matter couldn't be resolved in the short-term they would likely bail on the project, according to executives.

If the delay was to continue, New Asia will seek compensation for losses incurred since the government halted work on the plant last October and the return of a NT$1.5 billion guarantee bond, executives added.

New Asia signed a NT$10.5 billion contract to construct the structures that will house the two nuclear reactors and their accompanying turbines.

Under the agreement signed with Taipower, all domestic contractors are permitted to annul their contracts and seek compensation if construction is halted for more than three months.

Taipower executives said that company lawyers were examining the legalities of the bond request, but could give no assurances on whether work on the plant would resume until they receive instructions from the Ministry of Economic Affairs (經濟部) under the Executive Yuan.

The last instruction from the Ministry was on Jan. 20, when Taipower was told to maintain suspension of the project and strive to retain the contractors, according to Taipower. Additionally if any of the contractors move to annul their contract, Taipower has been instructed to pass the matter onto the Ministry which will handle the matter. None of the 12 major contractors have yet signalled any intention to pull out of the project, according to Taipower.

This might change, however, after word spreads among other contractors of New Asia's request.

In an prior interview with the Taipei Times, New Asia's President Chu Tai-sheng (朱台森) stressed the cooperative nature of construction work on the project, saying that even one contractor pulling out would compound delays and losses.

Certain areas of construction are dependent on the prior completion of others, which if remain incomplete due to contractor walk outs, will hobble the efforts of the remaining builders, said Chu.

Other contractors, however, remain committed for now.

The second biggest domestic builder, CTCI Corp (中鼎工程) will for the time being hold off on seeking compensation or an annulment of their NT$2.7 billion contract, said one executive.

The executive said that the company has been in constant contact with Taipower over the status of the project and was upbeat on the project's fate, saying it "isn't dead just yet," in light of the Legislative Yuan's vote Wednesday to resume construction and efforts by President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration to facilitate further negotiations between the Cabinet and the legislature.

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