The march on Saturday last week against nuclear power, under the theme “Farewell to Nuclear Power for a Beautiful Future,” called for saying goodbye to nuclear power plants, which the marchers said pose safety risks and leave the nation with difficult-to-process nuclear waste, and turning instead toward renewable and sustainable alternatives.
This year, with the second reactor at the Kuosheng Nuclear Power Plant going through major maintenance, and the first reactor at the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant offline due to issues with an emergency diesel generator, only the first reactor at the former and the second reactor at the latter are operational.
However, they are still producing enough energy to meet the nation’s needs. Even with the peak usage at 1:50pm on Wednesday last week, renewable energy sources provided 9.23 percent of the total, higher than the 5.794 percent provided by nuclear power plants.
Taiwan’s renewable energy installed capacity continues to increase, Atomic Energy Council figures show. In 2017, installed capacity stood at 10.6 percent, already surpassing the 10.3 percent nuclear installed capacity. In February, installed capacity for renewables was 12.1 percent, compared with 8.5 percent for nuclear installed capacity.
The gap will increase when the license for the second reactor at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant expires in July.
Taiwan is on the convergent boundary between the Eurasian Plate and the Philippine Plate, and experiences frequent earthquakes. Using nuclear power carries the risk of accident to a degree far higher than other nations with more stable geological conditions.
In addition, the nation’s latitudinal position gives it significant solar resources. A 2014 analysis by international engineering consultancy 4C Offshore said that of the 20 offshore windfarm locations worldwide, the 16 with the strongest wind power were in the Taiwan Strait.
Even if the mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant was operational, research by National Taiwan Ocean University shows that Taiwan’s geothermal resources could provide the equivalent to 65 of the plants.
Geologically speaking, Taiwan is ready to say farewell to nuclear power.
With nuclear power on the decline, its advocates in Taiwan are dressing up their ideas in sophisticated packaging, suggesting that nuclear is the way to reduce coal burning.
Yet, according to council statistics, coal power accounted for 46 percent of nationwide energy provision last year, far higher than the 10 percent provided by nuclear power.
How many new reactors would be needed to provide more power than coal-powered generation? Where would these be located? Would local residents accept this?
When nuclear advocates tout nuclear power as a way to reduce carbon emissions, are they really using coal as an excuse to increase nuclear power generation?
Nuclear power is large-scale, centralized power generation: When a reactor fails, it results in a large reduction in power provision.
Renewable energy is more decentralized, so a simultaneous failure of several generators leads only to a reduction in efficiency, requiring only more careful management of storage and demand to maintain a stable supply.
Internationally, companies are increasingly emphasizing corporate and social responsibility, and many have joined the RE100 initiative committed to using 100 percent renewable energy.
If Taiwan wants to conduct business in the international community, it will have to keep up with international trends.
Tsai Ya-ying is a lawyer affiliated with the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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