Fri, Mar 25, 2011 - Page 8

Despicable scaremongering

Refusing to let a crisis go to waste, the recent insidious attempts by press agencies, anti-nuclear environmentalists and irresponsible politicians to fan the flames of public ignorance and irrational panic over the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan, is despicable.

Reports have said the reactors had “exploded,” or were edging toward “catastrophic meltdown,” and the level of radiation leakage at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has been deliberately and irresponsibly exaggerated.

Some of this reporting has at times come sickeningly close to resembling a deliberate attempt to encourage the public association of thousands of deaths with what has so far been the very limited radiation leakage in Fukushima.

Contrary to their political fig-leaf, many of the environmentalists protesting in Taipei on Sunday were not there to express their “uncertainty” about the safety of nuclear power — they were there to build political capital for the abolition of all nuclear power in Taiwan. High-profile figures such as Taiwan Environmental Protection Union head Lee Cho-han (李卓翰) even seemed to state as much publicly.

Such a policy would be disastrous because renewable power generators such as solar and wind are neither capable of generating an even remotely comparable output, or of running on a sufficiently cost-effective basis to serve as effective replacements for nuclear power plants.

The largest solar power station in the world — the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility — currently being built in California, is designed to produce 392 megawatts of power at an estimated cost of about NT$40 billion (US$1.35 billion). Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Longmen (龍門) is designed to produce well over 2.5 gigawatts of power, but at a cost so far of more than NT$270 billion. At best, therefore, once we account for the approximate seven-fold difference in power output of the two plants, the financial costs of a solar plant built with today’s technology are roughly equivalent to those of the much-delayed Longmen nuclear power plant.

Had Taiwan Power Co invested in a solar power station in 1997 rather than the Longmen nuclear power plant — as David Reid claimed it should have, along with other renewables (Letters, March 18, page 8) — the ratio of power output to financial cost would likely have been far worse given the comparatively poor state of solar cell technology in 1997.

I understand concerns about the safety of nuclear power in Taiwan given the nation’s geology. However, I submit that the removal of nuclear power from Taiwan would be an irresponsible act of considerable economic vandalism.

This would be a policy which, at the furthest logical reach of its consequences, would have to be measured in terms of the frustration of human values and suffering for want of electricity, not to mention the benefits that the control of electricity bestows upon society as a whole.