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4th nuclear power plant should start in 2017 at latest: official

2011/10/31 18:38:56

Taipei, Oct. 31 (CNA) The commercial operation of the country's fourth nuclear power plant is undergoing fine-tuning but should not begin any later than 2017, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang said Monday.

President Ma Ying-jeou is scheduled to soon unveil his administration's new energy policy, in which a reduction in Taiwan's reliance on nuclear power is expected to be the focus.

It is certain that the service periods of the three nuclear power plants already operating will not be extended, but whether the No.1 plant will be decommissioned earlier than planned will hinge on the commercial operation of the fourth plant and the stability of electricity supplies from Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), which operates the nuclear plants.

Taipower Chairman Chen Kui-min said that due to the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan in the wake of the tsunami triggered by the massive March 11 earthquake, Taiwan's fourth plant has had some additional improvement work incorporated, such as an emergency diesel generator facility.

Elaborating on the date of the start of the new plant's commercial operation, Chen said that "the exact date should be announced early next year."

He said the repeated delays in the plant's opening has made the cost of the facility balloon. It has been estimated that the cost increases by NT$5 billion (US$167.11 million) for every year of delay.

Chen said the scheduled service period of the three existing plants is 40 years. The two units at the first nuclear power plant are scheduled to be decommissioned in 2018 and 2019, respectively, with the two units at the No. 2 plant closing in 2021 and 2023 and the two at the No. 3 plant shutting in 2024 and 2025.

He stressed the fourth plant will only start commercial operation after fuel filling and test runs, and only after safety approval has been granted by the Atomic Energy Council and international nuclear safety organizations.

Asked if the decommissioning of the three plants will push up electricity rates, Chen declined to comment, saying that the Ministry of Economic Affairs has not yet officially notified Taipower that it will not be allowed to extend their service periods.

(By Lin Shu-yuan and Lilian Wu)