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Restarting No. 4 nuclear plant project could cost NT$70 billion: AEC

2019/03/14 17:03:14

Taipei, March 14 (CNA) It could cost an estimated NT$60-70 billion (US$1.94-2.26 billion) and take at least 10 years to revive the mothballed fourth nuclear power plant at Longmen in New Taipei's Gongliao District, Atomic Energy Council (AEC) Minister Hsieh Shou-shing (謝曉星) said Thursday.

However, Hsieh said that a decision to search for a final disposal repository for radioactive waste has not been reached and he declined to answer the question of when the location of a final repository can be determined, because no cities or counties in the country are willing to have such a facility in their localities.

Hsieh was responding to a legislator's questioning about restarting the nuclear plant project during a legislative hearing, as the topic has sparked considerable debate after pro-nuclear energy activists recently proposed a referendum on the issue.

At the same time, former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), who has announced his intention to seek the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) nomination for the 2020 presidency, said recently that he supports relaunching the power plant project.

Construction of two reactors at the Longmen plant began in 1999, but the project has been beset by political, legal and regulatory delays. The completed unit 1 was mothballed in July 2015, while construction of unit 2 was suspended in April 2014.

Hsieh said that the assets of the plant are currently being fully maintained and managed and that if the government wants to revive the project, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) will have to submit a plan to the AEC.

Even if a referendum on restarting the project passes, the AEC will not lower its vetting standards, he stressed.

Lee Min (李敏), a nuclear engineering professor at National Tsing Hua University, recently initiated a referendum petition proposing that the service life of the three operating nuclear power plants be extended for 20 years. The government's policy is to phase out nuclear power by 2025.

Asked about which nuclear plants can have their decommissioning postponed, Hsieh said that only the decommissioning of the unit 2 reactor at the No. 3 nuclear plant -- the Maanshan plant in Pingtung County -- can be postponed.

He also said that during his tenure, the AEC will not amend laws and regulations to accede to pro-nuclear referendum results.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Economics Affairs in August 2018, it would take at least 6-7 years to complete all the procedures for the No. 4 nuclear plant's unit 1 to go into commercial operation, including receiving approval from the AEC for storage of spent nuclear fuel rods and one year of trial run.

In the statement, the ministry also cited Taipower estimates that it would require about NT$47.8 billion to revive the nuclear plant and put it into commercial operation, adding that the amount could be even higher than that.

(By Liu Lee-jung and Evelyn Kao)
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