Thu, Apr 16, 2009 - Page 12 News List

Nobel laureate endorses nuclear power for Taiwan

By Elizabeth Tchii  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), a Nobel laureate and former president of the Academia Sinica, yesterday endorsed nuclear power over traditional coal-fired power and called for global collaboration on developing alternative energies.

Lee made the remarks at a press conference on the sidelines of the National Energy Conference, which brings together government officials, academics, industry representatives and environmentalists to discuss major energy issues.

Lee cited official statistics from the US government, saying Taiwan’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2006 were 13.19 tonnes per capita, making it the third-biggest per capita polluter after the US and Australia, with 19.78 tonnes and 20.58 tonnes respectively.

This illustrates the severity of Taiwan’s emissions problem, Lee said, adding that this was the primary reason he supported nuclear energy.

But efficiency must be improved at the nation’s nuclear power plants, Lee said, as only 5 percent of the energy generated at nuclear plants is transformed into power, while the remaining 95 percent becomes waste material.

Another academic at the forum said Taiwan could not produce enough energy through clean sources to sustain itself.

“No ... alternative sources of energy, be it wind, solar, natural gas [or others] could [produce enough] to support the nation’s consumption of power because we simply don’t have enough land to install [the facilities],” said Liang Chi-yuan (梁啟源), a research fellow at the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Economics.

Another guest speaker, Michael Nobel, chairman of the Nobel Charitable Trust, said at the press conference it was “simply unsustainable” for everyone to live “the American way.”

“Governments, industries and scientists must work together now before it’s too late,” he said.

Nobel said high oil and fuel prices alone would motivate investment in alternative energy.

He praised technologies developed by Taiwanese company CQi Inc (縱橫網路資訊), which fosters “intelligent environment” systems that automatically turn off systems such as lighting, air-conditioning and other electrical equipment when they are not in use.

Nobel disagreed with Lee on nuclear power, saying it was neither “renewable, nor sustainable.”

“It is basically the same as pumping oil,” he said.

Instead, he said Taiwan should focus on its achievements in solar technology to alleviate over-reliance on nuclear and coal-fired energy.

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