Taipei, May 14 (CNA) Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang reconfirmed Taiwan's commitment to the goal of gradually becoming free of nuclear power, ruling out the possibility of renewing licenses for existing nuclear plants, on Monday.
"To build a nuclear-free homeland, all of the three existing nuclear-power plants will go offline once their current licenses expire," Shih said during a legislative hearing.
The minister also assured that the fourth nuclear-power plant now under construction would become operational only after its safety was guaranteed.
Lawmakers from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) questioned the necessity of the fourth nuclear plant, describing the project as "a time bomb that burns money."
The project's total cost could eventually grow to over NT$330 billion (US$11.18 billion), 94 percent higher than the original budget of NT$169.7 billion approved by the Cabinet in 1992, they said.
In response, Shih said the state-run Taiwan Power Co., which operates the nuclear plants, would review the budget and time limit of the project and submit a report by the end of 2012.
"It will be a very important mechanism to attain the 'nuclear-free' goal while ensuring no power rationing, maintaining reasonable electricity prices and upholding the carbon reduction promises in the process," Shih said.
The government would review its nuclear-power reduction plan once every four years, he added.
However, when DPP Legislator Chen Ming-wen asked if Taiwan could reach its goal of becoming a "nuclear-free homeland" by 2025, Shih resolutely ruled out the possibility, saying there was no specific timetable.
(By James Lee)