Economics minister denies electricity shortage looming

The China Post staff and CNA

Economic Minister Lin Hsin-yi yesterday said that the nation will not face a shortage of electricity for the next seven years or so even if construction of the fourth nuclear plant is scraped without having an alternative energy plan in place. According to Lin, with the independent power generating companies slated to start operations in three to four years, the nation’s power reserves will be enough to provide for the country until 2007 even if the government halts the nuclear plant without adopting other substitutions. Lin said Taiwan will not face a crisis of insufficient power and urged the business sector not to be overly worried. “The notion that Taiwan will plunge into darkness if we don’t build the fourth nuclear plant is completely wrong, as our assessment shows,” said Lin. The remarks, coming after the resignation of former premier Tang Fei on Tuesday, were seen as another attempt by Lin to gain more support for his contentious recommendation to halt the fourth nuclear plant project.

Tang’s departure was believed to be a result of his insistence on continuing the nuclear project, a position at odds with the Democratic Progressive Party government’s policy. Tang was from the former ruling party, the Kuomintang. Lin said yesterday the ministry has submitted to the Cabinet its proposal and that a final decision will be made by the Cabinet. Nonetheless, whatever the result, the business and industrial sectors do not have to fret about insufficient power since the government has preliminarily decided to replace nuclear power with natural gas, the minister added. “There will certainly be other difficulties down the road even if natural gas is adopted, but the ministry will work all out to iron out the problems,” Lin added. The construction of the fourth nuclear plant has been plagued by protests from residents living in the area. Even though liquefied natural gas is less dangerous compared with nuclear power, the construction of facilities needed to generate the alternative power source is also expected to encounter similar grievances from grassroots groups. Meanwhile, Taiwan Power Co., owner of the temporarily-suspended fourth nuclear power plant, has informed the U.S. General Electric to hold off in its delivery of reactors for the plant, the United Evening News reported. GE is the contracted supplier of reactors for the nuclear plant. GE was asked to postpone the delivery from March to September 2001. Taipower said it was forced to do so because it remains unclear whether the government is going to continue the project or scrap it. The possible halt of the project has worried not only business people at home, but also the United States government as its economic interests are at stake. The U.S. Department of Energy has indicated that it intends to transfer nuclear waste processing and storage technology to Taiwan, as it sent a special aid to Taiwan recently to learn about related developments here. C.K. Chou, a special assistant at the U.S. Department of Energy and director of the Fission Energy & Systems Safety Program under the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, visited Taiwan over the past several days meeting officials from the Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council as well as Taiwan Power Co.,