Wed, Feb 28, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Nuclear plant could face further delays, economists claim

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Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電), the nation's only electricity retailer, could delay completion of a nuclear power station by a further two years, causing NT$60 billion (US$1.8 billion) in lost revenue.

The utility will probably fail to meet a target to start commercial operations at its fourth nuclear power plant in 2009, because of government indecision about the project's future, said Liang Chi-yuan (梁啟源), an economist at Academia Sinica.

The nation needs the facility, with a planned capacity of 2,700 megawatts, to ease an electricity shortage in the north and reduce a reliance on supplies from the south. Taipower has postponed the startup of the station three times, a 2006 report from the Taipei-based company said.

"Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) is willing to complete the project, but his predecessors were indecisive, causing a delay in construction," Liang said by telephone yesterday.

In June 2005, then-minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥) said the government might not allow Taipower to start operating the nuclear power plant because of public concerns that the project could pose safety risks.

Taipower's nuclear plants supply more than a fifth of the nation's electricity.

Opposition to the reactors is exacerbated by the high frequency of earthquakes, raising fears that seismic activity could cause an incident.

The company generates close to 75 percent of the electricity the nation uses .

It operates three nuclear power plants with installed capacity of 5,144 megawatts.

Reactors met 24 percent of electricity demand in December, Taipower said on its Web site.

Construction of the fourth nuclear plant was 62 percent complete as of last month, Clint Chou (周義岳), a Taipower public relations officer, said.

"We'll try our best to meet the target" to bring the first of the station's two units online in July 2009, Chou said.

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration in October 2000 ordered Taipower to suspend building the fourth nuclear power plant because of opposition from residents near the site, 40km east of Taipei.

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