Taiwan decommissions oldest nuclear power reactor

Nuclear reactor ceases operation as decommission project faces delays

Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant. (Image from Taipower)

Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant. (Image from Taipower)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The first reactor at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City ceased operations on Dec. 5, and has officially begun a decommission process.

Taiwan Power Company (Taipower), the operator of the site, said the reactor’s operating license had expired, and the process to decomission the site will begin once all relevant permits are obtained.

The reactor is Taiwan’s oldest, and helped Taiwan through the oil crisis of the early 1970’s, as well as secure investment through reliable power generation, Taipower said in a statement.

The decommission process faces challenges and delays, as it has not received the relevant permits to begin, and the question of what to do with the reactor’s nuclear waste is still unclear.

Taipower’s decommissioning plan for the reactor was approved by the Atomic Energy Council in July 2018, but the permit to allow work to begin has not been issued as an environmental impact assessment by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) is incomplete.

The EPA said its final review of the environmental assessment will not take place until the new year, and could potentially take months to complete as experts and officials scrutinize the document.

The project also faces delays due to the problem of how and where to store spent fuel rods. A fuel storage yard built in 2013 to hold the waste has not yet received an operating permit from the New Taipei City Government, and this issue has become heavily politicized.

Taipower spokesperson Hsu Tsao-hua (徐造華) said that the fuel rods will be left in situ within the power plant until an appropriate storage facility is built, with the plant’s safety systems monitoring their state.

Leaving the rods within the plant could cost more than NT$700 million (US$22.70 million) per year, and could delay the decommission project by up to 10 years as a new storage facility is built, reports CNA.

Taipower’s plan to decommission the reactor will take place in three phases. During the first phase, the plant will be shut down over an eight year period, after which it will be decontaminated and dismantled over 12 years. Lastly, a final inspection and land restoration project will take place over three years.

The second reactor at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant is expected to cease operations on July 15, 2019.