Wed, Dec 05, 2018 - Page 12 News List

Jinshan reactor reaches deadline

Staff writer, with CNA

The first reactor of the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant is scheduled to be decommissioned today after 40 years of service, but the question of how to handle nuclear waste remains.

The plan to decommission the two reactors at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Shihmen District (石門) includes construction of an outdoor storage yard at the site for the dry storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The facility was built in 2013, but has yet to pass a New Taipei City Government inspection needed to obtain an operating permit, leaving the decommissioning process in limbo.

If the storage facility cannot be used, the 816 fuel rods in the plant’s first reactor would have to stay where they are, and the plant’s safety equipment would have to keep running, Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) spokesman Hsu Tsao-hua (徐造華) said.

Although Taipower has planned an indoor storage facility, it would take at least 10 years to build, Hsu added.

Construction of the plant, which stands on a hill along the northern coast, was approved in 1970, and its first reactor began commercial operations on Dec. 10, 1978.

With a 40-year operating license, the first reactor was set to start the decommissioning process today, while the second reactor is scheduled to start decommissioning on July 15 next year.

Taipower is legally required to file a decommissioning application and begin an environmental impact assessment (EIA) three years before a facility is to permanently stop operations, presenting another roadblock.

Taipower in January 2016 applied to conduct an EIA for the plant, which covers the disposal of spent fuel rods and other materials.

The first-stage assessment passed an Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) committee review in May 2016, and a stricter second-stage assessment was approved in August this year. The latter was then submitted to the EPA for final review.

However, the agency has said that no review would take place before this month, and even if it is approved without any dispute, its conclusions must still be double-checked and approved at a meeting of experts and officials.

The decommissioning also faces obstacles from local politics, as New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has said that the city “can never be the permanent storage place for nuclear waste.”

His position is at odds with his party, which advocates the use of nuclear power as the government moves toward a goal of becoming nuclear-free by 2025.

Whether New Taipei City mayor-elect Hou You-yi (侯友宜), who is to take office later this month, would veer from Chu’s position is not yet clear, but Hou on Nov. 30 said that he hopes the problem of nuclear safety could be resolved before discussing issues related to nuclear power.

“Nuclear waste represents pain in the heart of New Taipei City” residents, Hou said, adding that nuclear waste should never be stored in a heavily populated city.

Hou said he has urged the central government and Taipower to find a permanent storage location as soon as possible, a mission the utility has struggled with for years.

Even if the decommissioning were to start on time, it would still be a long process.

Under Taipower’s plan, it would take eight years to shut the plant down, 12 years to dismantle it, three years to inspect its final condition and two years to restore the land.

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