A number of academics have called for a halt to the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮), saying the cost of electricity generation using nuclear energy is not as low as the government estimates and that paying the huge penalty for breach of contract in exchange for the plant’s suspension and the nation’s safety would be a “real bargain.”
Citing the controversy-plagued power plant’s initial feasibility report, National Taipei University economics professor Wang To-far (王塗發) said the report projected a construction budget of about NT$169.7 billion (US$5.8 billion) and forecast the cost of power generation by the plant, which was originally scheduled for completion in 2000, at NT$2.709 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), including a fixed cost of NT$1.908.
However, with construction expenditure reaching nearly NT$330 billion, assuming the plant went into operation in 2000, the fixed cost per kWh would rise to NT$3.71, raising its nuclear electricity generation cost to NT$4.51 per kWh, Wang said.
“If changes in the wholesale price index were factored in, the electricity generation cost for the plant could have further increased to NT$5.83 per kWh in 2011, which is about 8.83 times the number estimated by [state-run] Taipower [Taiwan Power Co],” he said.
Wang added that the figure was also higher than the average cost of about NT$3.3 per kWh for electricity generated by nuclear power plants in the US, based on calculations by the US Department of Energy.
“The [nuclear] power plant’s electricity generation cost could surge to NT$9 per kWh should costs for its maintenance, decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal also be included, which would be far higher than the costs for electricity generated using oil [NT$3.206 per kWh], coal [NT$3.89 per kWh] and gas [NT$5.756 per kWh],” Wang said.
National Taiwan University chemical engineering professor Shih Shin-min (施信民) said the site’s structural problems could never be solved by allocating more money.
“As the international community has yet to discover a proper approach to the disposal of nuclear waste, it is hard to estimate the cost of the potential impact of the plant on the marine ecosystem, the divisions and unrest it would cause in society, as well as potential damage in the event of a nuclear disaster,” said Shih, who is also the founder of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union.
Green Citizens’ Action Alliance secretary-general Hung Shen-han (洪申翰) said that with people setting higher standards for nuclear safety, the cost of nuclear-powered electricity would inevitably be higher in the future due to the need to buy more safety equipment.
The underlying problem of the nation’s seemingly insufficient electricity supply does not lie in whether the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should go into operation, but in the problematic calculation mechanism for future electricity demand growth employed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Hung said.