State-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) yesterday said it was assessing the time needed to complete the partially built Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and its total cost amid reports that the project could eventually cost more than NT$330 billion (US$11.16 billion).
Taipower was responding to a report by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) that the utility might inject an additional NT$56.3 billion into the project.
That would bring the plant’s total cost to NT$330 billion, 94 percent higher than the original budget of NT$169.7 billion approved by the Executive Yuan in 1992.
The plant’s commercial operation would also be postponed until 2016 at the earliest, the report said.
Taipower chief engineer Hsu Yung-hua (許永華) said the utility must assess how long it will take to complete the plant before it can decide how much more investment is needed.
“We have no substantive figures right now,” Hsu said.
However, “as the cost was increased to about NT$273.7 billion the last time there was a fund injection, the eventual cost cannot avoid reaching NT$300 billion after another increase in investment,” he said.
Hsu said Taipower would have to spend an additional NT$400 million to NT$600 million for every month the project is delayed. He dismissed speculation that the facility would end up being the world’s most expensive nuclear power plant, citing a project recently approved by the US that is projected to have an even higher price tag.
The company will consider safety and the assessments of experts at home and abroad about completing construction as soon as possible, Hsu said.
The project was launched in 1999, but its progress has been affected by the suspension and resumption of construction due to changes of administrations and policies.
Following a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in March last year that was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami, Taipower stepped up safety measures at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, thereby preventing it from opening as planned at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker yesterday said allocating more funds to the plant does not live up to a pledge made by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to gradually decrease Taiwan’s use of nuclear power.
DPP caucus whip Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said his party would make “the promotion of a draft nuclear-free homeland act” its top priority.
Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池), a caucus whip of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), denied that Ma has reneged on his pledge to reduce the use of nuclear power.
Ma wants to begin commercial operation of the fourth plant after its safety is assured so that Taiwan’s first and second nuclear power plants can be phased out in stages, Lin said.