TAIPEI–The state-owned Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower, �x�q) warned Sunday that the No. 1 generator at the country’s first nuclear power plant may have to go offline sooner than expected because of limited storage space for spent nuclear fuel.
On Feb. 17, Taipower issued an invitation for foreign companies to tender for the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from Taiwan’s first and second nuclear power plants but withdrew the request on April 2 amid a budget controversy.
Taipower had allocated NT$11.257 billion (US$360 million) for the overseas reprocessing of 1,200 clusters of spent fuel rods, 300 of which were to be shipped out by the end of the year.
But lawmakers failed to approve the budget in March, saying that Taipower and the Ministry of Economic Affairs were trying to initiate a bidding process with foreign companies without legislative oversight and were accessing the nation’s nuclear back-end management fund before the establishment of legal guidelines for its use.
Taipower said it will continue to negotiate with lawmakers and seek their support in the hope that the budget would be approved before the current legislative session ends in late May.
However, Taipower said that if the fuel storage problem is not resolved in time, the No. 1 generator would have to go offline in mid-2016, ahead of the decommissioning of the first nuclear power plant in New Taipei City, which is scheduled to begin in 2018 and be completed by 2023.
The generator, in fact, has been down since last December due to a component failure, and the Atomic Energy Council has not yet given approval for it to be put back online. Taipower has said it is aiming to put the generator back in service as soon as possible.
With the 63.6 megawatt generator out of service, the risk of power shortages increases, Taipower said.
The storage space problem also exists at the country’s second nuclear power plant, which has the same decommission schedule as the first one, according to Taipower.
Several civic groups, including Mom Loves Taiwan and Green Citizens’ Action Alliance, have lodged strong protests against Taipower’s proposed reprocessing of nuclear fuel.
The groups have said is ��absurd�� to consider sending fuel rods overseas for reprocessing since Taiwan should be phasing out nuclear power.