Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Legislative committee to investigate nuclear budget

MUSHROOMING A group will look into the rising costs of the nation's fourth nuclear power plant as well as the rapid increase in the project's additional budgets

CNA , TAIPEI

Members of the Legislative Yuan's Economic Affairs Committee have formed an ad hoc subcommittee to investigate why additional spending for the nation's fourth nuclear power plant has risen so sharply while construction has been delayed for so long.

The subcommittee's convener, Hsu Shou-po (許舒博) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), said that the group initially decided to examine 227 contracts that were worth more than NT$1 million (US$31,000) but finished up being approved at a price 95 percent higher than the bottom line.

Of those 227 contracts, 67 would be targets of the group's investigation.

"When Taiwan Power officials learned of our decision, they were delighted, making me feel that something might have gone awry," Hsu said.

"So we decided to lower the bar a bit, to look into any contract that was signed at a value of 94 percent above the bottom line. That immediately increased the number of target cases to over 100," he added.

Another focus of the group's investigation would be the sharp increase in additional budgets for the project, according to Hsu, who noted that as of last year, the government had approved NT$143.6 billion in funds for the project, equal to 84.3 percent of its total budget of NT$169.7 billion.

However, with that number of approved budgets, the aggregate engineering project was only 58.6 percent complete, with construction -- which is still in progress -- merely 43.8 percent complete by 2004.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs, which had twice funneled extra money to the project for a total of NT$242.7 billion, is now considering Taipower's request to add a third supplement of NT$54.3 billion, while the total delay in construction has added up to 39.5 months.

The legislative committee has cast doubts on the enormous supplementary spending and long delays in the building process when it compared the current project with the nation's first three nuclear power plants.

The first plant, whose initial budget was NT$12.8 billion, had six funding supplements for a grand total of NT$29.6 billion while the building period was extended by three years and three months.

The second plant's initial budget stood at NT$21.9 billion. After receiving additional funding on four occasions and being delayed by nearly two years, it was completed with a total budget of NT$63 billion.

The budget for the third plant was increased three times and nearly three-fold so that its total budget rose steeply from the planned NT$35.8 billion to NT$97.5 billion.

The committee on March 27 decided to freeze half of this year's budget for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project pending the group's investigation.

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