Thu, Mar 15, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Taipower to absorb costs related to nuclear plant

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

Additional costs incurred by Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) from the more than three-month halt in construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四) will not result in higher electricity prices, according to the chairman of the state-run utility company.

Taipower Chairman Hsi Shih-ji (席時濟) told lawmakers yesterday that much of the estimated NT$3.4 billion in additional costs incurred during that time could be absorbed by the company through dipping into the utility's pension fund.

"With privatization of Taipower to be delayed, we can afford to withdraw around NT$2.3 billion to offset the losses from the nuclear plant['s delay]," Hsi said.

As for the added costs from interest payments on loans and maintaining the site, Hsi said these were all "book losses" and the company had not yet paid out any money.

Viewing the total cost from this point of view, it doesn't "actually amount to that much," Hsi said, adding that the NT$3.4 billion sum would not be passed on to power users.

But at the insistence of New Party deputy whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), Hsi estimated that if the additional costs were to be reflected in a price rise, average users consuming around 300 kilowatt-hours of power per month would see their electricity bills increase by NT$6.

The declaration by Hsi comes only days after he hinted that power rates may have to be hiked -- which would be the first time in 18 years -- to bolster profits that are plunging on the high costs of oil and natural gas.

Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Hsin-yi (林信義), who was also at the legislature to answer questions from lawmakers, said the additional costs should be viewed as the "price of democracy." Lin has consistently defended his advice to the government to scrap the plant, saying it was in the best interests of the nation. The beleaguered minister had another chance to defend his stance yesterday under blistering attacks from opposition lawmakers, who said he should take the blame for a misguided policy.

Environmental problems

* The Atomic Energy Council says it never received note of the censure.

* In March 1999, the Atomic Energy Council issued the plant its construction license without responding to the censure first.

* The EPA says only the Atomic Energy Council could require Taipower to do a new EIA.

Source: Taipei Times

"My original reasons for advising a halt to the plant have not changed," Lin said.

Lin said the NT$3.4 billion in additional plant costs included NT$500 million in extra fees paid to domestic contractors and another NT$2.4 billion for foreign contractors. Interest payments and the cost of maintaining the plant's work site amounted to around NT$700 million.

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