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September 20, 2017

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Experts ambivalent on effects of halting Nuke 4 construction

TAIPEI--Halting the construction of Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will have little effect on the country's manufacturing sector in the short term, experts said Thursday, but they cautioned that it could have a negative influence in the long run.

Taiwan's manufacturing activity has not yet been affected by the dispute over the power plant, but the potential for future power shortages or electricity rationing will likely discourage local and foreign investment, said Wu Chung-shu, president of the Taipei-based Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research

"We really need practical discussion about such issues, including the recent protests against the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and a trade-in-services agreement with China," Wu said during a press conference held by the think tank in which it said Taiwan's manufacturing activity continued to signal moderate expansion in April despite a drop in the purchasing managers index.

"We should avoid political and emotional discussion and refer to the experiences of other countries," he said.

The economist urged the government to draft an energy policy based on pertinent analysis after weighing the pros and cons of the power plant. "Never ignore the balance between costs and efficiency," he added.

Impact on Economic Growth

It will take time for Taiwan, which relies on imports for 98 percent of its fossil fuel, to move toward becoming nuclear-free, Wu said, adding that the public should consider which is riskier — operating the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant or extending the lifespans of the three existing plants.

Kamhon Kan, an economics researcher at Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institute, echoed Wu's opinion, saying that the public should consider if scrapping the nuclear power plant and the service trade pact with China can allow Taiwan to maintain economic growth.

Meanwhile, Steve Lai, executive director of the Supply Management Institute in Taiwan, also urged the protesters to be aware that energy costs in Taiwan play a critical role in the nation's production competitiveness.

Construction of the fourth plant's nearly completed No. 1 and No. 2 reactors has been halted. The No. 1 reactor, which is currently undergoing safety inspections, will not be brought online once the inspections are complete, according to the government.

The Executive Yuan has also promised to convene a national energy conference as soon as possible "to ensure there will be no cause for worry over future power supplies."

The opposition parties and anti nuclear groups have increased their pressure on the administration since April and have been demanding that the project be scrapped altogether to avoid the danger of radioactive pollution.

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