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July 22, 2017

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Abolishing nuclear power harms Taiwan: Wall Street Journal Asia

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Giving up nuclear power would make Taiwan more vulnerable both economically and strategically, the Wall Street Journal Asia said in an opinion piece published yesterday.

The newspaper named Taiwan as the exception in East Asia for exacerbating its "own economic and strategic vulnerabilities by abandoning domestic nuclear-power production," pointing out that Japan and South Korea continued to invest in nuclear power even amid voter concerns about safety.

The newspaper said that Taiwan's public aversion to nuclear power seems to be far stronger than Japan's despite the trauma of Japan's 2011 Fukushima meltdown. Tokyo responded to the nuclear disaster, the second worst in history after Chernobyl, by idling its 50 reactors and giving in to public demands to replace nuclear power, which contributes to 30 percent of the nation's energy.

Yet the Japanese public changed their minds after they "found themselves spending an extra 9.2 trillion yen (more than US$100 billion) on energy imports in the first two years without nuclear," the newspaper said. Meanwhile, South Korea "plans to increase its reliance on nuclear to as much as 45 percent by 2035 from about 33 percent today."

Citing government estimates often contested by anti-nuclear activists in Taiwan, the newspaper pointed out that if Taiwan goes nuclear power free now, it would see a 40-percent electricity price hike. The nation's state-run utility corporation, Taipower, will go bankrupt if Taiwan's Four Nuclear Power Plant, which is under construction, does not open, the article quoted Taipower as saying.

"A post-nuclear Taiwan would also be worse-equipped to withstand coercive pressure from China, such as a ban on cross-Strait coal exports or a blockade in the event of war," the newspaper observed. "The island currently holds about two weeks' worth of strategic energy reserves."

"While Tokyo and Seoul are pursuing regulatory reform and a balanced energy mix, Taipei is moving toward increasingly radicalized street politics and nuclear zero. That's risky territory for any nation, let alone one stuck in China's shadow," the article concluded.

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