Taiwan government maintains nuclear phase-out

01 February 2019

The Taiwanese government will proceed with its plan to phase out the use of nuclear energy, despite citizens voting against the policy in a recent referendum, the country's economic minister announced yesterday.

The Lungmen nuclear power plant (Image: Taipower)

Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected to government in January 2016 having a policy of creating a "nuclear-free homeland" by 2025. Under this policy, Taiwan's six operable power reactors will be decommissioned as their 40-year operating licences expire. Shortly after taking office, the DPP government passed an amendment to the Electricity Act, passing its phase-out policy into law.

However, in a referendum held on 24 November, voters chose to abolish that amendment. The Ministry of Economic Affairs said the amendment was officially removed from the Electricity Industry Act on 2 December.

At a press conference yesterday "to explain the results of the referendum on energy issues", Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin said "there would be no extension or restarts of nuclear power plants in Taiwan due to subjective and objective conditions, as well as strong public objection".

Taiwan has four operable nuclear power reactors - two each at the Kuosheng and Maanshan plants - which account for around 15% of the island's electricity generation. Unit 1 of Taiwan's oldest plant, Chinshan, has already been taken offline and will be decommissioned, while the operating licence of unit 2 is due to expire in July. Construction of two units at Lungmen began in 1999, but the project has been beset with political, legal and regulatory delays. The completed unit 1 was mothballed in July 2015, while construction of unit 2 was suspended in April 2014.

Shen said decommissioning of the Chinshan units will continue as planned, the operating licences of the Kuosheng and Maanshan units will not be extended, and the Lungmen project would not be restarted.

The plan to decommission the Chinshan plant includes the construction of a dry storage facility for used fuel. Construction of this facility was completed in 2013. However, the New Taipei City municipal government has yet to issue a permit for its use. Decommissioning of unit 1 cannot begin until all 816 fuels rods have been removed from its reactor core and the used fuel pool.

The deadline for applying for licence renewals for the Kuosheng and Maanshan units has already passed, Shen said. There is also opposition for the extended operation of the units from the public and local governments, he added.

Resumption of the Lungmen project "will be difficult", Shen said, as "objective conditions are not feasible and local public opinion does not support it."

In a statement today, state-owned Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) ruled out the possibility of completing the Lungmen project. It said it would take at least six to seven years to bring the plant into commercial operation.

Taipower noted that the original supplier of the plant, General Electric of the USA, has ceased production of many of the parts used in constructing the two advanced boiling water reactors (ABWRs), making sourcing replacement parts difficult. It added that reallocating budgets for the project at the Legislature, renewing an application to the Atomic Energy Council to resume the project, and follow-up tests and inspections would be time consuming.

In a statement GE Hitachi said: “With decades of experience supporting the operation of nuclear power plants, GE Hitachi offers a robust parts inventory and the ability to engineer needed parts on demand that enables us to provide solutions to customers to keep their plants running safely and efficiently. While the characterization that parts obsolescence could stand in the way of reactor startup or operation is inaccurate, we remain committed to working with Taipower in support of its plans.”

Shen also said the requirement to reduce the output of coal-fired power plants "by 1% year by year", as approved by a separate referendum in November, is achievable. He also said that there are no plans to construct new coal-fired power capacity.

However, the minister warned that Taiwan is likely to suffer power shortages from 2021 due to increasing demand.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News