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Gas is nuclear plant's future: legislature

TAIPEI--The Legislative Yuan's Economics Committee passed a resolution yesterday that called for the conversion of the country's uncompleted fourth nuclear power plant into a power plant run on natural gas.

The resolution passed was proposed by ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Ting Shou-chung, who felt Taiwan should follow the example of the William H. Zimmer nuclear plant in Moscow, Ohio, which was converted into a thermal power plant in 1991 after the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

Given the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan, Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, still under construction in Gongliao, New Taipei, should be changed into a thermal power plant run on natural gas, Ting also said.

Noting that the plant is only 20-30 kilometers away from the capital city of Taipei, Ting said a nuclear disaster could cut a wide swathe across heavy-populated northern Taiwan.

He also branded the controversial plant a “bottomless hole” that will become a financial burden on the country, saying the government has already poured more than NT$100 billion (US$3.41 billion) into the project and needs to spend another NT$50 billion to complete it.

The resolution passed by the committee will now be submitted to the whole Legislature for final approval.

Learning of the committee's resolution, Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang said his ministry will study the idea's feasibility.

He noted, however, that the proposed conversion would pose many challenges, including securing supplies of natural gas and conducting another environmental impact assessment.

It would also inevitably increase the cost of electricity, Shih said, because nuclear power costs NT$2 per kilowatt-hour to generate, about half the cost of electricity generated using natural gas.

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