Environmentalists urge delay to amendments’ review

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jan 12, 2017 - Page 3

Proposed amendments to the Electricity Act (電業法) would deny funding for the cleanup of nuclear power facilities and fail to liberalize the renewable energy market, environmentalists said yesterday, calling for a review of the legislation to be postponed until concerns are addressed.

“Fundamentally, some provisions aim to unshackle state-run Taiwan Power Co [Taipower] from any responsibility for handling expenses related to the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and the handling of nuclear waste,” said Taiwan Environmental Radiation Survey convener Lin Jui-chu (林瑞珠), a veteran anti-nuclear power campaigner, who was joined by a handful of other demonstrators in a protest outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

A comprehensive package of amendments to transform Taipower and partially liberalize energy production is expected to win passage during the ongoing special legislative session.

One of the amendments would allow Taipower to end contributions to the nuclear energy back-end management fund after nuclear plants cease operation, Lin said, adding that the fund was designed to cover expenses associated with the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and the management of radioactive waste.

“It is impossible to estimate just how much money will ultimately be needed to fund the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and radioactive waste management,” she said, adding that it was unclear who would be responsible for repaying 90 percent of the fund’s capital borrowed by Taipower.

Under the amendments, the firm’s electricity production and delivery functions would be split between two successor firms, with power production opened to competition from new firms.

“The gap in capital is already huge and there will not be any new money coming in under the amendments, so addressing decommissioning and management will be a huge problem,” Lin said, questioning whether the government would be willing to assume cleanup costs.

Executive Yuan plans call for the establishment of an independent government agency to assume responsibility for nuclear waste management from Taipower.

Provisions in the amendments that would allow for the direct sale of renewable energy fall short, because selling firms would be required to have backup power sources and pay Taipower’s successor for the use of its electricity delivery network, she added.

“The only way for renewable energy firms to have backup capacity is to invest in fuel-burning power generation. Otherwise, they can only produce power when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining,” Lin said, adding that amendments for small-scale production would not apply to most renewable energy firms.

“Renewable energy firms will only be able to serve as subcontractors to Taipower, because direct sales to consumers would entail greater costs than selling to Taipower,” she said.