Tue, Dec 05, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Nuclear power is the best for the environment

By Lu Shyi-min 呂錫民

Taiwan’s cities are experiencing serious air pollution, largely because 35 percent of the nation’s electricity is generated from coal. Faced with a wave of public protest, several coal-fired power stations have responded by cutting their outputs.

This year’s autumn is unusually hot and the Central Weather Bureau has said that temperatures have hit a 70-year high.

Warmer weather means more use of air conditioning. If the base-load electricity supply from coal-fired power plants is reduced under such conditions, it might lead to more power outages.

This situation calls for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to temporarily drop its call for a non-nuclear homeland and restart nuclear power plants, which provide base-load power without causing air pollution, killing two birds with one stone by resolving the environmental and electricity supply problems.

As an economy grows, power demand also grows. If coal-fired generation is reduced from current levels and we scrap nuclear plants, which provide base-load power without polluting the air, it will be bad not only for the environment, but also for the stability of electricity supply.

This is especially true considering that nuclear power is generated cleanly and cheaply and does not require maintaining emergency stocks of fuel.

Pending an environmental impact assessment, the site for the nation’s third liquefied natural gas terminal has yet to be decided. The DPP’s nuclear-free homeland plan aims to generate 50 percent of electricity at gas-fired power plants within the coming eight years. Given the delay, this will be hard to achieve.

Without an ample supply of electricity, the measures that Premier William Lai (賴清德) has announced in response to the “five industrial shortages” — labor, skilled professionals, electricity, water and land — will merely be empty words.

For example, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co plans to build a 3-nanometer chip plant in Tainan, which would boost its electricity demand by 21 gigawatt-hours, or 85 percent, within the next 10 years. If electricity supply develops along current lines, TSMC will pack up and leave Taiwan.

It took 18 years to build the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) at a cost of NT$283.8 billion (US$9.45 billion at the current exchange rate). Three years ago, construction was halted under the government’s nuclear-free homeland policy, and Taiwan Power Co has had to spend NT$3.4 billion per year to keep the plant in mothballs. That is a big waste of taxpayers’ money.

The power plant’s installed capacity is 2.7 gigawatts (GW). If it were to start operations with a utilization rate of 90 percent and operate throughout the year for a total of 7,880 hours, it would generate 21.276 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, which equals 8 percent of Taiwan’s total power generation of 264.114TWh last year.

Based on Taiwan’s electricity emission factor for last year of 0.529kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour, generating that amount of electricity from the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant would cut emissions by 11.3 million tonnes, which is 4.4 percent of the total 258.17 million tonnes of emissions that Taiwan produced last year.

The nations’s four nuclear power plants, with their total capacity of 7.844GW, could generate 61.811TWh per year, or 23.4 percent of all electricity, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32.8 million tonnes, or 12.7 percent of the total.

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