TAIPEI–It is meaningless to demand a halt to the construction of the nation’s fourth nuclear power plant as fuel rods have not yet been installed at the facility, Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) said yesterday.
Some 126 systemic tests are being carried out at the plant to determine when to install the fuel rods, Taipower Chairman Chen Kui-ming said in response to lawmakers’ demand that the project be discontinued.
Legislators have also asked Taipower to explain its policy on extending the service life of the first three nuclear power plants.
But Chen said Taiwan would collapse if all three operating nuclear plants were closed down now.
As to the safety of the fourth, which is being built on the northeastern tip of the island, Chen said there was simply no risk of a nuclear accident occurring before the installation of fuel rods.
When the nuclear power plant’s test report comes out, the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) will determine whether it is safe to install the fuel rods, which means the AEC will act as a safety valve, according to Chen.
Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ming-wen said he suspected that Taipower may have violated safety rules by filing an application with the AEC to install fuel rods at the fourth nuclear power plant.
In response, Hsu Huai-chiung, deputy general-manager of Taipower, said Taipower did that in 2008 at a time when the plant was originally scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2010.
Under the law, Taipower was required to file the application 14 months prior to the start of commercial operations, he said. Power Shortage Without Nuclear Plants The head of Taipower also said Taiwan could face a shortage of electricity if it abolishes its nuclear power generation policy.
With its limited land resources, Taiwan has only “limited room” to develop green energy, said Chen.
Chen said Taiwan’s electricity operating reserve rate would have dropped to 7 percent from the existing 22 percent this year, and to 3 percent next year and even to minus 2.2 percent two years from now if it had no nuclear power, which would trigger a power shortage crisis.
The anti-nuclear appeal has gained increasing support from local industries, including Chang Yung-fa, who runs Taiwan’s largest marine transport group, and Chang Pen-tsao, chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China.
At a press conference earlier in the day, DPP legislative caucus whip Gao Gyh-peng accused the government of “threatening the public” by alleging that suspension of the No. 4 plant will result in a loss of NT$200 billion (US$63 billion).