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Servicing reactors to cost up to NT$2bn each after halting construction: MOEA

Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) yesterday said the cost of maintaining each reactor at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has been estimated at between NT$1 billion and NT$2 billion (US$33.19 million and US$66.4 million) a year if Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) is ordered to halt its construction.

The maintenance fees would ensure that equipment at the plant remains functional, in the event that the public votes to let Taipower resume the construction of the power plant in the future, Chang said.

“It depends on how long the plant’s construction is suspended,” Chang said at a meeting of the legislature’s Economics Committee. “The longer each reactor is sealed, the higher the maintenance fee.”

In response to former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Lin I-hsiung’s (林義雄) hunger strike, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on April 27 agreed to have Taipower seal up the No. 1 reactor at the plant after conducting safety inspections and halting construction of the No. 2 reactor immediately.

Chang said that the maintenance fee was a rough estimate based on some US companies’ expense records from when construction on their nuclear power plants was suspended.

Taipower completed construction of the No. 1 reactor at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) at an expense of NT$283.8 billion over the past 14 years, Chang said.

However, the state-run utility needs an additional NT$40 billion to finish the installation of the No. 2 reactor, as the committee earlier this year approved Taipower’s proposal to increase its construction budget from NT$270 billion last year to NT$330 billion, he said.

“It would be irresponsible for the government to abandon NT$290 billion worth of equipment before holding a referendum or completing the safety inspections,” he added, referring to Taipower’s ongoing safety review of the No. 1 reactor.

In reply to questions from KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), Chang said that considering land issues and equipment replacement costs, Taipower does not plan to convert the plant into a coal or natural gas-fired power stations.

Nonetheless, Chang agreed that natural gas is a good alternative to nuclear energy because it is cleaner in terms of amount of carbon dioxide emission during electricity generation.

However, the cost of converting the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant into a natural gas station would be “huge” and only 3 percent of the currently installed equipment would be used, Chang said.

Taipower chairman Hwang Jung-chiou (黃重球) yesterday said the company is prepared to submit to the legislature a draft report by the end of next month, covering the company’s contingency plans to respond to potential power shortages due to the suspension of construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

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