TSMC won’t quit Tainan science park

The China Post staff

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC) chairman Morris Chang reiterated yesterday that his company would not pull out of the Tainan Science-based Industrial Park despite the worries over the high-speed rail vibrations.

Previously, Silicon Integrated Systems (SIS) has indicated that it will withdraw from the Tainan Science-Based Industrial Park if vibration levels from the nearby high speed rail are not lowered to within acceptable limits. It originally planned to invest NT$95 billion to build two 12 inch wafer foundries in the park. Work on the first such facility began late last year and was expected to be completed during the second half of next year. SIS ordered a halt to all work, however, after learning that vibration levels from passing trains, which will run by just 290 meters away from the site of the proposed plant, could affect their precision instruments. At this point, according to a SIS spokesman, the company is waiting to see if vibration levels can be brought down to within acceptable levels before making a final decision on whether to pull out of the park. The announcement follows closely on the heels of a decision by Winbond Electronics to cancel plans for a plant in the science-based industrial park for the same reason. However, a Winbond spokesman indicated recently that his company too would consider going ahead with plans for investment in the park if vibration levels could be brought down. Currently, vibration levels from passing trains are expected to hit 68 decibels. Representatives from both semiconductor manufacturers have said they would like to see vibration levels kept under 42 decibels. So far no other plants have announced that they were pulling out of the park, although there has been some speculation that Chimei Electronics could be forced to leave due to concerns about the effects of vibrations from passing trains. In related news, an official from the Environmental Protection Administration said that vibration standards in the contract signed between the government and the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC) were not the same as those used for the project’s environmental impact assessment. After visiting the industrial park earlier this week, Air Quality Protective Planning Bureau director Hong Cheng-chong said that the original assessment was performed based on vibration levels of between 34 and 40 decibels. In the contract signed between the THSRC and the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, though, vibration levels were set at 65 decibels, he pointed out. Hong said that if THSRC did not bring vibration levels down to within those originally promised, the EPA could either order a work stoppage to give it time to conduct another assessment or ask that the high speed rail’s route be changed. In response, Transportation Vice-Minister He Chen-tan said that any route change or work stoppage would require an amendment to the original contract amendment that would have to be negotiated between THSRC and the government. In the meantime, the Tainan Science-Based Industrial Park has suggested that vibration levels could be lowered by shortening distances between buttresses used on the rail line. Noting that vibration levels at a station in Tokyo were lowered by a similar method, officials at the park are suggesting that the distance between buttresses be changed from 30 meters to six meters in the area of the park. According to an estimate by the National Science Council, such a modification would increase the cost of construction by just NT$600 million. However, the Bureau of Taiwan High Speed Rail is maintaining that the change would delay completion of the project by 14 months and would run up costs by billions of dollars. At the behest of Premier Chang Chun-hsiung, minister without a portfolio Hu Ching-piao is currently being briefed by officials from both agencies in an attempt to try to resolve the controversy as quickly as possible.