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Taiwan to forge ahead with nuclear power?
by Staff Writers
Taipei, Taiwan (UPI) Feb 14, 2012

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Taiwan plans to go forward with its fourth nuclear power plant amid safety concerns.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, winning a second term in office last month, said he is committed to having the No. 4 Longmen nuclear facility, known as the NPP-4, online by 2016, as long as it meets safety requirements.

But the plant had been bitterly opposed by local residents and environmentalists even before Japan's magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami last March 11 led to a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

In her campaign leading up to the presidential elections, the opposition Democratic Progressive party candidate had promised that, if elected, she would halt commissioning of the NPP-4.

Taiwan Today has reported that in pre-operation tests over the past year, the NPP-4, which will feature two 1,350-megawatt advanced boiling water reactor units, has experienced fires, blackouts and other irregularities.

While the country's first three nuclear plants were turnkey projects subcontracted to General Electric and Westinghouse, NPP-4, under construction in New Taipei City, is the first one to be supervised by the Taiwan Power Co. utility, known as Taipower, under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

"Taipower had no previous experience of nuclear power stations before taking charge of the NPP-4," the French newspaper Le Monde quoted Aiya Hsu, of environmental group Green Citizens' Action Alliance, as saying.

The project, which had been scheduled to be online by December, has faced numerous delays for technical and political reasons.

Taipower says construction on the plant is more than 90 percent complete.

"The longer the project went on, the more it cost and the more cost-cutting there was," an unnamed Taipower employee told Le Monde.

In 2000, Tien Chiu-chin, a member of the opposition party, estimated the facility would cost $2.6 billion.

"Now it will end up costing four times as much. It has not even been commissioned yet (and) it is already rated as one of the world's most dangerous plants by the World Nuclear Association," she said.

Of particular concern, Le Monde reports, is the haphazard handling of radioactive waste for Taiwan's existing nuclear power facilities, with cooling ponds for the six reactors containing nearly four times the radioactive waste as had been anticipated.

But Taiwan's nuclear safety regulator, the Atomic Energy Council, dismissed Le Monde's report, maintaining that spent reactor fuel from the reactors has always been under safe storage and strict management.

About one-fifth of the country's electricity is derived from nuclear power.

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