Environmental groups yesterday said Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang’s (施顏祥) recent remarks that electricity prices would soar by 40 percent if the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant does not go into operation are misleading and could even be considered as threatening the public into accepting nuclear power.
In Shih’s report to legislators last week about construction of the plant — the Longmen (龍門) Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) — he said electricity prices would greatly increase if the project were abandoned and the three operational plants are retired in a few years.
Members of the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance (GCAA) and several other groups demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday, calling for Shih to apologize for what they said were his threatening words.
“Ministry of Economic Affairs, stop threatening the public; Minister Shih come out to apologize,” the demonstrators shouted.
The groups said Shih made three major mistakes in his comments: the cost of natural gas was inflated and the price of nuclear-derived electricity underestimated; the electricity that would be generated by the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant would only account for 6 percent of the total electricity supply and thus would be unlikely to boost electricity prices by 40 percent, and retirement of the three plants now in operation is already government policy.
According to the ministry’s estimates, the price of electricity would skyrocket if nuclear power were to be replaced by natural gas power, but that is because it has claimed the cost of natural-gas-powered electricity to be NT$5.7 per kilowatt hour (kWh), GCAA deputy secretary-general Hung Shen-han (洪申翰) said.
However, a report by the International Energy Agency says the most expensive natural-gas-powered electricity in the world is in Japan and only costs about NT$3.15 per kWh, Hung said.
The ministry said the cost of nuclear-derived was NT$0.69 per kWh, but it actually ranges between NT$3 and NT$4 per kWh in most European countries, and is NT$1.75 per kWh in China, Hung said.
The nation’s three operational plants are scheduled for retirement by 2025, but that is still more than 10 years away, Hung said.
The activist questioned why the ministry chooses to “threaten the public” into not giving up nuclear power instead of putting more effort into finding measures to keep electricity prices down.
An official at Taiwan Power Co, which runs the three operational nuclear power plants, said its price estimates, including nuclear power and natural gas costs, are correct, because it has taken the cost of building new power plants and possible price rises over the next 10 years into consideration.