TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – On Monday, Feb. 5, the Taipower Company submitted an application to Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council (AEC) for authorization to restart a nuclear reactor at the No. 2 nuclear plant in Wanli, New Taipei.
Taipower has asserted that in light of Taiwan’s new energy policies, and increased energy usage during the Winter months, that there may be a looming power shortage facing the country.
In response however, various environmental groups and some legislators have raised their voices in objection that Taipower would even consider such an action.
Ever since the tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that occurred in Japan in 2011, the movement for Taiwan to become a completely nuclear free country has gained considerable momentum, and the DPP led goverment has pledged to have a completely "nuclear-free" Taiwan by 2025.
The reactor in Wanli, New Taipei, was shut down in May 2016, reportedly because of a glitch in its electrical system. According to CNA, after maintenance to the reactor facility was completed in December 2017, all the glitches had been resolved.
Next, pending a 30 day safety review to obtain approval from the AEC, Taipower's request will proceed to the Legislative Yuan. Taipower claims that with the reactor in operation it would provide a full 985 megawatts of electrical power, which would boost Taiwan’s national energy reserve by 3 percent.
A separate report from CNA notes that an array of criticisms have been raised in response to the motion from Taipower. Some critics claim that after 600 days of being offline, that restarting the reactor could prove costly, and may cause mass power outages.
Other critics claim that Taiwan still possesses an abundant surplus of energy, and that the claims of a looming power shortage from Taipower are entirely unfounded.
Regardless of the exact details of Taiwan’s energy production and energy reserves, restarting the nuclear reactor would come at an extremely high political cost to the DPP, because of the current drive for the country to “Go Green” and the pledge that Taiwan would be nuclear free by 2025.
Anti-nuclear protesters and officers in front of Pres. Office (Image from Flickr user Michelle17 Lin)
Taipower insists that investment and sound economic growth will be stunted if Taiwan is unable to stabilize energy production during this crucial transition that the country has undertaken. The company and proponents of nuclear energy assert that restarting the reactor is simply a pragmatic measure to ensure adequate energy reserves.
The application from Taipower, if approved, would only call for operation of the reactor through 2023, the year in which the No. 2 nuclear plant is already scheduled to be completely retired from operation.
The government has also recently come under criticism for the deteriorating air quality that continues to afflict most of the country’s population centers. The problem is partially the result of an increased reliance on burning fossil fuels to mitigate the energy deficit incurred by shutting down the island’s nuclear reactors.
Taiwan currently possess four nuclear reactors, however one of them has never been activated. Among the remaining three, there are six operational reactors, but only half of them are being used currently.
All of Taiwan’s reactors are scheduled for retirement in the coming years, with the No.1 reactor to be permanently shut down in 2019, No.2 in 2023, and the final reactor at the No.3 power plant scheduled for retirement in May 2025.
The No. 2 Nuclear Plant at Wanli (CNA Image)