Premier considers reactivating long-closed nuclear reactor

06/05/2016 03:32 PM
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The first nuclear power plant in New Taipei. (CNA file photo)
The first nuclear power plant in New Taipei. (CNA file photo)

Taipei, June 5 (CNA) Facing a possible insufficient power supply this summer, the premier said Sunday that he is considering having the first reactor of the First Nuclear Power Plant reactivated after it was shut down for repair 17 months ago.

On the premise that the reactor will be decommissioned as scheduled in late 2018, "it can be reactivated (now) if it is still safe," Lin Chuan (林全) said when asked by reporters whether the measure to reactivate the reactor violates the new government's policy of making Taiwan nuclear-free.

The government -- which was inaugurated May 20 -- hopes that all the three serving nuclear power plants will be decommissioned as planned by 2025, when the last reactor will be decommissioned, Lin said.

If the reactor in the First Nuclear Power Plant, situated in Shimen District of New Taipei, northern Taiwan, is still safe to be used, of course the option of reopening it can be considered, Lin said.

Cabinet spokesman Tung Chen-yuan (童振源) later reiterated that the reactor will be reactivated only after it is proved to be safe and secure.

Meanwhile, Vice Economics Minister Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) said that the reactor can help release the country from the power supply shortage problem once the safety concerns are addressed.

The issue of whether or not to have the country's oldest nuclear reactor brought back into service sparked heated debate after residents in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, experienced scorching temperatures of up to 38.7 degrees Celsius in the first days of June, the highest on record.

The hot weather sparked a risk of electricity shortages for this summer, which will force the government to implement power rationing.

On May 31, the state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) said that the reserve capacity had dropped to an alarming 1.64 percent, the lowest in 10 years, leading to the possibility of power rationing.

The first reactor of the First Nuclear Power Plant was shut down Dec. 10, 2014 when a handle on one set of its fuel rods was found to have loosened.

The reactor, with a generating capacity of 636,000 kw, if reactivated, can boost the reserve capacity by 1.7 percent, according to Taipower.

In April, 2015, the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) approved a report of safety checks to the repaired device, agreeing that the reactor can be activated again.

However, the AEC has since then not been able to deliver a briefing on the report at the legislative Education and Culture Committee to have the report verified.

Without the Legislature's verification, the AEC cannot approve the re-launch of the reactor.

On Sunday, when asked about Lin's latest remarks on the reactor, the AEC said the legislative committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the nuclear facility and power supply problem June 8.

If the AEC can get the long-stalled briefing tabled in the planned hearing and see the report verified, it will be able to give a green light to reactivate the repaired reactor within three to four days, the council said.

(By Tai Ya-chen, Chen Cheng-wei and Elizabeth Hsu) ENDITEM/J

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