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Thu, Aug 03, 2000 - Page 3 News List

US, Taiwan experts discuss nuclear power

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY US energy analysts argued for the termination of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, saying that sustainable energy options existed


US energy experts yesterday provided government officials with possible alternatives to nuclear energy, recommending an immediate halt to construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四廠).

Meeting with members of a Ministry of Economic Affairs task force charged with reviewing the project at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, the experts stressed that alternatives to nuclear energy could be cost-effective.

The four energy analysts, John Byrne, Edward Smeloff, Amory Lovins and his wife, Hunter Lovins, whose visit was sponsored by the US-based W Alton Jones Foundation, began their visit to Taiwan yesterday by presenting practical information on new technologies which are being developed in the energy sector.

They said that energy efficiency should be improved and renewable energy sources considered.

During the meeting, Smeloff referred to his previous experience of closing of a nuclear power plant to illustrate that alternative sources of power could cost the consumer less and yet not be a burden to the economy.

Smeloff served on the elected board of directors of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the fifth-largest publicly owned utility in the US, between 1987 and 1997.

Smeloff's comments were greeted with words of positive support from some members of the economics ministry task force.

DPP Legislator Lai Chin-lin (賴勁麟), a task force member who is opposed to nuclear energy, said that he would bring up the cost issue at the next task force meeting, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

"If sound cost analysis by US experts tells us that building nuclear power plants is not as cheap as Taipower (台電) claims, why don't we just put the project aside and figure out possible alternative options?" Lai said.

Some members were skeptical, however, because they believe that Taiwan is a different case from other countries because of its growing population and limited land.

Wang Chung-yu (王鍾渝), from China Steel Corporation (中鋼), said that he agreed with the US experts' ideas of improving energy efficiency but that it was still uncertain that the alternatives were suitable for Taiwan.

The economics ministry's task force is expected to decide by mid-September whether to continue with the controversial power project.

The visiting energy experts also visited the ministry's Energy Commission (能源會) yesterday, saying that the huge capital investment and corresponding ecological burden of nuclear and coal plants needed to be addressed head-on to establish a more sustainable long-term power policy.

They said that it was necessary to phase out uneconomical -- including nuclear -- power plants, as part of a transition to a more market-oriented electricity system, adding that it was clearly necessary to abandon the controversial nuclear power plant project.

Energy commission officials, however, said that Taiwan was a small island, which lacked natural resources.

"Because of this situation, the project for the nuclear plant is still under debate. The fact is, however, that we're facing power shortage problems," Chen Chao-yih (陳昭義), the commission's secretary-general, said.

Energy commission officials told the Taipei Times that Taiwan was not falling behind the international community in the energy sector because it was working on adopting alternatives, such as wind power and methane collected from garbage landfill sites. They added that eight wind power plants will be completed by the end of 2001.

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