New Power Party Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) and nuclear power advocate Liao Yen-peng (廖彥朋) yesterday debated the cost of nuclear power ahead of a referendum on the issue alongside the nine-in-one elections on Saturday next week.
Hosted by the Central Election Commission and broadcast by the Public Television Service, the event was one of five televised debates on the referendum on scrapping Article 95-1 of the Electricity Act (電業法), which stipulates that all nuclear power facilities should stop operations by 2025.
Liao, one of the referendum’s initiators, said that the nation’s power supply system might collapse without nuclear power, as most of its baseload electricity is generated at coal-fired and nuclear energy facilities.
Liao said he supports the development of renewable sources of energy and proposed that the ratio of such sources be increased from 5 percent to 10 percent by 2025.
However, renewable sources can never replace nuclear power, because they are unstable and energy storage facilities are expensive, he said.
“Every kilowatt-hour [kWh] of nuclear power means a kilowatt-hour of reduction in coal-fired power,” Liao said, adding that maintaining nuclear power would prevent more people from developing lung cancer due to air pollution caused by fossil fuels.
The government should resume the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮), where not every resident is opposed to the plant, given that it offered many job opportunities before it was officially mothballed in 2015, Liao said.
Huang, a lawmaker representing Gongliao and other districts near the Jinshan (金山) and Guosheng (國聖) nuclear power plants, said that more discussion would be needed, even if the referendum passes, before work could restart on the mothballed plant.
To gauge public opinion on nuclear power plants, the referendum’s initiators should propose other referendums on resuming work on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and extending the operating permits of other three nuclear power plants, Huang said.
The suspension of some nuclear power generation units was not caused by environmentalists, as nuclear energy supporters claim, but because of maintenance failures by state-run Taiwan Power Co and insufficient supervision by the Atomic Energy Council, he said.
Nuclear security, which is touted by supporters of nuclear energy — particularly professors of nuclear engineering at National Tsing Hua University — might only exist in laboratory tests with perfect conditions and operators, he said.
The average cost of nuclear power has long been “beautified,” as spending on nuclear waste disposal and plant decommissioning are not properly taken into account, Huang said.
Liao is also gathering signatures for another referendum proposal that asks if people agree to move low-level radioactive waste stored on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) back to the nuclear power plants.
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