Halting the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant could help Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) avoid bankruptcy, but terminating it permanently would ruin the company, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) said yesterday.
Duh made the remarks at a meeting of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee to discuss the National Science Technology Program-Energy and developing alternative power sources to achieve energy independence and a nuclear-free homeland.
At the meeting, committee members questioned Duh about the possible impact of the Cabinet’s decision yesterday to halt construction on the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮), and seal the first one up after conducting safety inspections.
The vice minister said that while anti-nuclear protesters are concerned that “halting” construction is not the same as “terminating” it, both measures would have the same significant result of putting a stop to building for the moment, but that terminating plant entirely would bankrupt Taipower.
Duh said that project’s NT$283.8 billion (US$92 million) budget would be listed as a company loss if it is “terminated” for good and would therefore force Taipower to declare insolvency according to the Company Act (公司法).
However, if the project is only “halted” so the public can vote on it in the future, that sum would be listed as investment asset, he said.
“Taipower going bankrupt would not benefit anyone,” Duh said, adding that the cost of sealing the No. 1 reactor would be calculated by June.
As for the impact that ceasing construction could have on the supply and cost of electricity, the vice minister said that without a way to compensate for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant not becoming operational, restrictions on electricity use could be imposed as early as 2021.
“The change in electricity prices would be calculated based on the difference between the cost of nuclear power-generated electricity and that of the amount generated by alternative energy sources to replace the power that was set to be generated by the Gongliao station,” he said.
Duh said electricity prices would increase by approximately 14 percent if the electricity that was to be supplied by the plant is generated by natural gas instead, with the hike set to be as high as 40 percent if the nation’s three operating nuclear power plants are retired.
Also at the meeting, Minister of Science and Technology Simon Chang (張善政) said that although studies have shown that there is sufficient combustible ice in the nation’s southwestern waters to generate electricity, the technology required to make this a viable energy source is not developed enough yet.