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Fourth Nuclear Power Plant to meet rigorous safety standards: Taipower

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- State-run Taiwan Power Co. reiterated Saturday that Taiwan's controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will meet the highest safety standards before beginning operations.

The company gave the assurance in response to anti-nuclear rallies held Saturday in several cities around the country that urged the government to scrap the fourth nuclear plant project and end the use of nuclear power in Taiwan.

Taipower Vice President Chen Pu-tsan said a safety review of the plant's 126 systems is expected to be completed by the end of June, after which a report will be submitted to the Atomic Energy Council for review.

As of early March, 121 systems had been inspected, with 17 requiring improvement.

Chen stressed the safety inspection is just one of 75 requirements that the power plant needs to meet before fuel rods can be installed in its No. 1 reactor.

Taiwan currently has three active nuclear power plants that generate about 20 percent of Taiwan's electricity. The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant was expected to help fill the power gap as those plants are decommissioned between 2018 and 2025.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs, meanwhile, said that ensuring the safety of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant remains the government's main principle and that it respected people's right to express different opinions.

Becoming a nuclear-free nation is a clearly articulated goal of the Basic Environment Act, the ministry pointed out, but it said the goal cannot be achieved by quickly closing down the three existing nuclear power plants and ceasing the construction of a fourth one.

Because of the risk of power shortages if nuclear power was cut off abruptly and their possible impact on people's livelihoods and the economy, the government is gradually phasing out nuclear power while continuing efforts to find alternative energy sources and conserve energy, the ministry said.

On the handling of nuclear waste, the ministry said the government has imposed comprehensive safety controls and adopted a set of standard operating procedures for the disposal of radioactive waste.

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