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Nuclear Reactor Restart Last Resort in Taiwan

Economics Minister Lee Chih-kung said Monday that restarting the first reactor of Taiwan’s First Nuclear Power Plant would only be a last resort to deal with potential power shortages.

Premier Lin Chuan said on Sunday that with possible power shortages looming he was considering restarting the reactor as long as safety could be assured, and promised that the reactor’s decommissioning date would not be extended beyond December 2018.

Lee, who pledged to business groups last month that “there will be no power shortage this year or next year,” was asked at a legislative hearing if the new administration was making a U-turn on its energy policy.

“This is not a question of flip flopping,” Lee replied.

He said that faced with a tight electricity supply, his ministry would have to quickly promote alternative energy sources and look at power transmission and power dispatching issues to improve the efficiency of electricity generation equipment.

Adjusting the energy supply structure will take time, he said, noting that transforming thermal power plants into ultra-supercritical units and building a third natural gas receiving terminal cannot happen overnight.

The No. 1 nuclear reactor at the two reactor first nuclear power plant in Shihmen District in New Taipei contributed about 2.25 percent of Taiwan’s electricity before undergoing an annual overhaul in December 2014.

It has been shut down since then after a broken connecting bolt in a fuel bundle was discovered during the annual maintenance checks.

The Atomic Energy Council (AEC), the supervisory body for Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower)-run nuclear power plants, gave it a green light for safety in April 2015.

But the reactor has not been restarted since then, held back by a legislative committee requirement, passed last year, that the AEC needed to deliver a safety report before the reactor could be reactivated.

The AEC has tried to deliver the report four times, but the committee has yet to give it time on its agenda.

On Monday, several environmental groups pressed charges against Premier Lin with the Taipei District Prosecutors Office for intimidation and other offenses because of his remarks on Sunday.

The groups, including the Green Consumers’ Foundation and Taiwan Academy of Ecology, also urged Lin to reconsider his thinking in view of the lessons of the Chernobyl disaster.

Taipower Chairman Huang Jung-chiou responded Monday that Taipower was not trying to intimidate or threaten the public by saying the power supply is tight.

The heat wave that struck Taiwan last week resulted in a surge of power consumption, he said, with Taiwan’s operating reserve capacity falling to 1.64 percent, the lowest in 10 years, leading to the possibility of power rationing.

Taiwan’s three existing nuclear power plants will be decommissioned between 2018 and 2025, and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party has advocated a nuclear free homeland by 2025.

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