Fri, Mar 08, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Nuclear Power Debate: Minister pans DPP’s nuclear-free goal

NO TIMETABLE:Under the government’s draft bill it is required to assess a timetable for Taiwan to become a nation free of nuclear power plants on a regular basis

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Pregnant women with Chinese characters for “Let Love Stand Up and Be Counted” written across their bellies pose at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) yesterday criticized the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) proposed goal to create a nuclear-free homeland by 2025 as “irresponsible,” saying that it did not have a concrete action plan to achieve this.

Chang made the remarks in response to reporters’ inquiries about why the Cabinet did not commit itself to a specific timetable under its proposed draft energy security and nuclear-free homeland promotion bill.

A Cabinet meeting approved the draft bill, to counter the DPP’s move to push its own proposal — that the nation quits all nuclear energy by 2025 — through the legislature.

Under the Cabinet’s version, the government is required to regularly assess a timetable for Taiwan to be a nation free of nuclear energy. The assessment must take into account how the policy goal would affect energy supplies, electricity prices and the government’s policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

According to the operator, state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電公司), the first reactor at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Shihmen District (石門), which began operations in 1978, is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2018.

Taipower plans to have all six reactors at the three operating nuclear power plants decommissioned by 2025.

Chang said the government is sticking to the decommissioning schedule under the premise that the nearly complete Fourth Nuclear Power Plant can begin commercial operations in 2015, as scheduled.

The fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant could depend on a potential referendum, which could be held by the end of this year.

By 2025, when the three existing nuclear power plants have been shut down and the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant would be the nation’s only nuclear plant, nuclear energy will provide only 6 or 7 percent of the nation’s electricity, a significant decline from 18.4 percent in 2011, Chang said.

Despite the lack of a timetable to achieve a nuclear-free homeland, the government has concrete plans to gradually reduce dependence on nuclear energy, Chang said.

Nuclear reactors are usually licensed to operate for 40 years, meaning that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant could operate until 2055 if it begins operations in 2015.

Chang said that the goal to establish a nuclear-free homeland could be realized much earlier if plans to develop various types of alternative energy go well.

A total of 39 countries in the world use nuclear power and 31 have continued to develop nuclear power plants after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011, with South Korea aiming to boost the amount of electricity produced by nuclear plants to 40 percent, Chang said.

Proposing a timetable to abolish nuclear energy without concrete plans to develop alternative supplies was unrealistic and irresponsible, he said.

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