Tue, Dec 25, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Energy crisis could save first nuclear plant: AEC

REVERSE The Atomic Energy Council is actively training evaluation personnel for the renewal process, the head of the council's Institute of Nuclear Energy Research said

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The current world energy crisis and global warming threat may lead to an eventual reversal of the country's decision to close the First Nuclear Power Plant, an Atomic Energy Council (AEC) official said yesterday.

AEC Minister Su Shian-jang (蘇獻章) made the remarks at the council's end-of-year press conference yesterday.

The nuclear plant, which began operation in 1978, will reach the end of its 40-year license in 2017, he said. But a Time Limited Integrated Plant Assessment (TLIPA) had been completed, indicating that a 20-year renewal for the plant would be feasible, Su said.

"The plant can reduce up to 7.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emission annually, compared with a traditional power plant," he said.

Quoting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who once said her decision to ban nuclear power plants had gone from the "drive gear to neutral with a pending shift to reverse," Su said, "a wave of international scholars and experts, including the once anti-nuclear Nobel Prize Laureate Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), who has become a convert, are now rethinking the possibility of employing nuclear energy as a means to replace increasingly scarce fossil fuels."

Currently half of the 103 nuclear power plants in the US, instead of closing, have completed their process of license renewal, acting director-general of the council's Institute of Nuclear Energy Research Yeh Taun-ran (葉陶然) said.

The US is planning to build an additional 30 plants in response to the energy crisis, he said.

As a result, the AEC is actively training evaluation personnel for the renewal process, Yeh said, adding that the complicated process would take up to 18 months and would involve the changing of worn parts and a thorough evaluation of mechanical functionality.

"The ball is in Taiwan Power Co's [Taipower, 台電] court. [It's up to them] whether they apply for such renewal for the First, and even Second and Third Nuclear Power Plant. However, we feel that we should be prepared in case they arrive at an affirmative decision," Su said.

Addressing the Legislative Yuan and the Cabinet's 2001 consensus to build a "non-nuclear homeland" (非核家園), Yeh said: "Anti-nuclear efforts depended on the precondition that there existed no shortage of energies, which is now being compromised by a global deficiency in non-nuclear energy sources."

In addition to the renewal of existing nuclear plants, Taipower is also seeking a site for a used nuclear fuel dry storage facility, Su said, adding that the technique had safely been in use in the US for more than 20 years.

"There exists a superstitious public fear of radiation that lacks scientific basis," Su said, citing a common belief that placing a cactus plant next to a computer screen can neutralize the radiation it emits.

"But radiation, like many other advanced technologies, can be immensely useful when employed in the right places by the right people," he said.

Examples included radiation treatments for cancer, the sterilization of medical equipment and exported agricultural products, and cross-linking induction, a technology where a covalent bond is created to link one polymer chain to another, which changes the molecular property of a substance, Yeh said.

Application examples included the use of radiation to make fabrics more breathable and absorbent, he said.

"Taiwan's nuclear safety level is among the best in the world," Su said. "In the past year the AEC made it even better by making safety evaluations transparent to the public, placing all nuclear material tracking and registrations online, improving the AEC's nuclear emergency response capacity and by decreasing nuclear waste by 33 percent from the previous year [of 219 barrels]."

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