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Taipower mulls extending use of three nuclear plants

If the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant cannot become operational due to public opposition, the operational periods of the three existing plants will have to be extended, which could cost between NT$35 billion and NT$40 billion (US$1.16 billion and US$1.33 billion) to renew equipment, Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) said.

Company spokesman Tsai Feng-fu (蔡豐富) said that if service is extended by 20 years, the three plants could generate 40 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, or 800 billion kWh in 20 years.

If other energy resources are used to generate electricity, such as coal or natural gas, the cost could be NT$1.6 trillion, he said.

Tsai said that with thermal power plants heading for decommissioning in the coming years, there is a risk of power shortages by 2016, of which northern Taiwan would bear the brunt.

He said that if the fourth plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City, is not brought online, other energy resources will need to be found to fill the gap, and extending the service of the three existing plants is one option.

He said that the two units of the fourth plant could generate about 19.3 billion kWh per year, while the electricity generated by the Jinshan, Guosheng and Ma-anshan nuclear power plants is 9 billion kWh, 16 billion kWh and 15 billion kWh respectively.

Considering that northern Taiwan is more likely to face electricity shortages, priority will be given to extending the service of the Jinshan and Guosheng plants, both of which are in New Taipei City, but the decision will ultimately be based on government policy, he said.

According to the Atomic Energy Council Web site, the two units of the Jinshan plant in Shihmen District (石門) will expire in 2018 and 2019 respectively, while the two units in the Guosheng plant in Wanli District (萬里) will expire in 2021 and 2023, and the two in the Ma-anshan plant in Ma-anshan (馬鞍山), Pingtung County, in 2024 and 2025.

Applications to extend service need to be submitted five years before a plant’s expiration date.

The extension service application for the Jinshan plant was submitted before the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in the wake of the March 11, 2011, earthquake in Japan.

Meanwhile, Taipower estimated that despite electricity rate hikes in October last year, the company’s losses this year will amount to nearly NT$10 billion.

As of the end of last month, the company had accumulated losses of NT$209.4 billion.

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