The oldest of Taiwan’s three active nuclear power plants may be forced to cease operations earlier than expected if its waste storage problems are not addressed by the plant’s operator, state utility Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) said.
Taipower is planning to shut down the No. 1 reactor of the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Shihmen District (石門) for a major 18-month maintenance overhaul at the end of the year that is to include replacing spent fuel rods with new ones.
Each of the plant’s two reactors can store up to 3,083 bundles of spent fuel rods, but Taipower spokesman Tsai Feng-fu (蔡豐富) said the first reactor’s storage capacity is nearly full, with space for only about 100 bundles left.
Considering that 120 bundles are to be removed from the reactor during the maintenance period, Taipower needs more space to store the waste, Tsai said.
Anticipating the shortfall, Tai-power has built dry storage casks to store spent fuel rods temporarily at a facility completed on July 1 last year, but the site has still not received an operating license from the New Taipei City Government.
After two rounds of inspections in July and December last year, the city demanded that Taipower change the design of the project to comply with the city’s water conservation regulations.
The company made changes to accommodate the request, but the revisions were not approved after another round of inspections on Feb. 13.
Taipower officials said that if no new capacity to store the waste is approved, the plant would likely be forced to close one or two years before the plant’s operating license expires in 2018 and decommissioning begins.
Storage pools for waste from the plant’s other reactor are also nearly filled to capacity, with space for about 127 bundles, and even that might be a generous estimate because the actual capacity of the pools may fall short of their rated capacity, Taipower officials said.
Should the first reactor be permanently shut down, it would cost an extra NT$14.4 billion (US$475 million) every year to generate the same amount of power using natural gas, the company said.
Shutting down both reactors would nearly double the cost of replacing the lost electricity with thermal power to about NT$27 billion a year, or NT$3 more per kilowatt-hour.
Tsai brushed aside the possibility of moving the spent fuel rods to the nation’s second nuclear plant, also known as the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant, in New Taipei City’s Wanli District (萬里).
He said that the storage pools there are also almost filled to capacity.