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For Taiwan Power Co., idle nuclear plant could still be a costly burden

TAIPEI--The cost of halting construction of the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is still under evaluation, but it could run into the billions of Taiwan dollars, state-run utility Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower, 台電) said Monday.

Asked about the costs of “mothballing” the nearly completed project at a press conference Monday, Taipower Chairman Huang Jung-chiou (黃重球) said it was too early to know because of the many factors involved, but he pledged to estimate the costs as soon as possible.

The utility could face about NT$10 billion (US$329 million) alone in claims for breach of contract from domestic and foreign suppliers alone, Huang said.

The cost of re-activating the plant after shutting it down is also hard to estimate, Huang said, but he cited a nuclear power plant in the United States that budgeted US$3 billion to start up the facility after it had been idle for 10 years.

Taipower executives said they did not have information on how much the U.S. plant spent to maintain its facility while it was mothballed, but it was less than building a new plant, which costs approximately NT$300 billion to NT$500 billion.

The beleaguered power company has already spent more than NT$300 billion on the project that has dragged on for 15 years but has yet to generate any electricity.

Caving in to anti-nuclear opposition, the government has decided not to bring the plant's already completed No. 1 reactor online once ongoing safety inspections are concluded and to halt the construction of the No. 2 reactor, which is 91.5 percent completed.

In arguing for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant to proceed, Taipower has said that leaving the plant idle could force it into bankruptcy.

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