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Practicalities come before nuke abolition: Li

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- If people want to talk about abolishing nuclear power, they must think carefully about alternative energies and the prices that will need to be paid, Interior Minister Li Hong-yuan said yesterday.

Nuclear abolition should not be perceived as simply a social movement but an issue that demands detailed planning and practical measures, Li said, adding that before eliminating nuclear power, Taiwan should study what the alternatives are and how they could be implemented.

According to Li, 10 percent of Taiwan's electricity supply comes from nuclear plants. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and tidal power, all rely on natural conditions which can vary greatly from place to place, making thorough strategic planning indispensable, Li said.

After a discussion about which renewable energies Taiwan is capable of harvesting, issues such as costs, private investments and development must then be delved into.

Currently there is an insufficient number of investors who are interested in developing the industry, not to mention an inadequate industrial model, Li said.

He suggested that rather than irrational attempts aimed merely at attacking nuclear power, government officials should focus on the technology and development of renewable energy industries.

Asked about the issue yesterday, Economic Affairs Minister Shih Yen-shiang gave a vague response, saying that Taiwan should shut down any nuclear reactors that are found to be unsafe.

It is good for society to participate in such public discussions that generate rational debate, and the government welcomes the input of all sorts of safety watchdogs concerning possible risks posed by nuclear power, Shih said.

As for renewable energies, he said that though they may be viable alternatives in the future, the costs associated with utilizing current technology pose a serious downside. In terms of energy production, nuclear power is by the far the most cost-efficient option, he added.

Taking natural gas power as an example, Shih said that electricity rates would increase to four times their current levels if the country was to switch to a natural gas-powered energy system.

Together the nation can discuss whether this is a price that it is willing to pay, he said.

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