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Plan for mothballing nuclear plant due in June

The government will unveil a plan for mothballing the controversial fourth nuclear power plant by the end of June, when a safety inspection of one of the plant’s two reactors is scheduled to be completed, an official said Monday.

Vice economics minister Duh Tyzz-jiun told a legislative committee that his ministry and state utility Taiwan Power (Taipower) expected to unveil a plan to maintain the plant while it is idle and detail the maintenance costs by the end of June.

President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration decided on Sunday to allow the already completed first reactor to sit idle after the safety tests are done and stop work on a nearly completed second reactor, amid popular pressure to scrap the project due to safety concerns.

Nuclear power has always been controversial in Taiwan, but fears over the safety of the fourth nuclear power plant in New Taipei were heightened after a triple meltdown occurred in Japan in March 2011 following an earthquake and massive tsunami.

The issue has been a point of contention between opposition forces and the government, with the latter contending that the project would save Taiwan from power shortages when existing nuclear plants are decommissioned over the next decade.

Nuclear power accounted for 18.8% of the electricity generated in Taiwan in 2013, according to Taipower data.

The government decided to give in to opponents of the plant over the weekend after a former opposition Democratic Progressive Party leader went on a hunger strike to oppose the plant, sparking protests on Taipei’s streets that drew tens of thousands of people.

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