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Shorter Nuke 4 'mothballing' cheaper: Chang

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch (張家祝) yesterday said at the Legislative Yuan that the shorter the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant's “mothballing” period, the lower the costs will be.

The Legislative Yuan yesterday invited Chang, Atomic Energy Council (AEC) Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) and Taiwan Power Company (Taipower, 台電) Chairman Huang Jung-chiou (黃重球) to an interpellation session on the Nuke 4 issue.

Chang said that “sealing up” — or “mothballing” — Nuke 4 is currently a necessary measure, noting that based on other countries' experiences, reactor maintenance costs between NT$1 billion and NT$2 billion per year.

The economics minister said Taipower has to use other countries' experiences as a reference when proposing a budget for sealing up Nuke 4, adding, however, that the costs are not “likely” to be too expensive.

Lawmakers asked when Taipower will propose plans for other energy resources and how much it would cost to “mothball” Nuke 4 for five, 10 and 15 years, to which Huang responded by saying that Taipower will submit plans to the Legislative Yuan before the end of June.

Chang added that Taipower will draft a plan to mothball Nuke 4, adding that the plan requires the AEC's approval before it is carried out.

Tsai noted that Taipower has to submit the plan to the AEC 30 days before the power plant is sealed up.

Lawmaker Proposes Converting Nuke 4

During the interpellation session, Kuomintang lawmaker Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) said that although the government has decided to halt Nuke 4 construction, people are still concerned about the power plant's ultimate fate.

Huang asked Chang if it is possible to convert Nuke 4 into a natural gas power plant or a coal-fired power plant.

Chang replied that Taipower previously completed an assessment of a similar proposal; however, the proposal was deemed unfeasible due to land expropriation issues.

Chang said “halting” construction means that the project has been “temporarily stopped” as opposed to “abolished.” It would be a major energy policy change if the government decides to scrap the project, Chang said, adding that such a change would require the Legislative Yuan's approval.

The economics minister went on to say that the nation has invested over NT$270 billion on Nuke 4, noting that it would be irresponsible for the government to abolish the power plant unilaterally.

“Sealing up” Nuke 4 is the most appropriate approach to take, given that safety inspections on the power plant have almost been completed and given that a referendum on the power plant's fate has yet to be held, Chang said.

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