Fri, Jan 11, 2013 - Page 13 News List

Minister warns of price rises if nuclear is ditched

By Helen Ku  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Economic Affairs yesterday warned that electricity prices could soar by 40 percent if the country abandoned nuclear power as its major electricity source.

If the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮) is prevented from becoming operational, while the first and second nuclear power plants are retired, state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) would have to increase electricity rates sharply to cope with the high costs of generating power by using coal or natural gas, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said at the legislature, calling on lawmakers to be prepared for price increases when making decisions.

As nuclear power plants can generate electricity at a lower cost compared with thermal, wind or hydroelectric power farms and emit less CO2, it could be a better option to generate electricity, said Chai Fu-feng (蔡富豐), chief nuclear energy engineer in Taipower’s power generation department.

“It is understandable that there are safety concerns from the public, but the company has invested heavily in building safety systems to prevent accidents,” Chai said by telephone yesterday.

Chai said that Taipower has completed about 95 percent of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant’s construction and about 63 percent of its equipment had begun test operations.

Asked by lawmakers when the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant could begin operating, Shih said Taipower will submit a timetable in the second half of this year.

Shih told lawmakers that the ministry plans to invest billions of dollars of its budget in the purchase of fuels for the new power plant’s reactors in the second half of this year.

That will be the last phase of Taipower’s investment in the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, after investing a total of NT$283.8 billion (US$9.79 billion) over the past few years, Shih said.

Taipower plans to submit reports to the Atomic Energy Council for operation of the new power plant by June, Taipower chairman Hwang Jung-chiou (黃重球) said.

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