No life extensions will be granted to Taipower’s existing nuclear power plants in a newly announced nuclear energy policy that promises eventually to make the island ‘nuclear-free’.
The policy, unveiled at a news conference, states that the Chinshan, Kuosheng and Maanshan nuclear power plants will not operate beyond their planned 40-year lives and that Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant at Lungmen will not begin operations until all safety requirements have been met. Furthermore, the island’s oldest two units will face early closure provided both Lungmen units are in commercial operation before 2016.
The new policy had been prepared “in keeping with the principles of no power rationing, maintenance of stable electricity prices and continued reduction of carbon dioxide emissions to meet international goals,” said officials. They also noted that the new policy is in line with Article 23 of the Basic Environment Act, which directs the government to make plans that will eventually see Taiwan become nuclear-free.
The two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) under construction at Lungmen would only be allowed to start up after passing strict safety evaluations both by the government and international nuclear safety organisations. Additional improvements are being carried out at the plant in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis earlier this year, and an operation date is to be announced early in 2012.
Work started on Lungmen in 1999, but the project has been beset with political, legal and other delays. The first unit is currently undergoing pre-operational tests but start-up is not expected soon.
Taiwan’s oldest operating nuclear units are the two 604 MWe General Electric boiling water reactors at Chinshan, which started commercial operation in 1978 and 1979. Taipower had been expecting to seek 20-year licence renewals for all of its operating plants, and in 2007 Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council (AEC) approved a life extension for the Chinshan units, saying that the plant had undergone a safety evaluation and was safe to run for a further 20 years. Now it looks like they will face closure at what would have been the end of their original 40-year licence run – provided the two 1300 MWe Lungmen ABWRs have started up by then. Kuosheng and Maanshan will see their existing operating licences expire in the early 2020s.
Some 99% of energy used on Taiwan is imported. Although nuclear power comprises only 11% of installed generating capacity it has played a significant part in the island’s electricity supply for two decades, and now provides about a quarter of base-load power. In 2010 Taipower had announced that it was considering uprating the six existing reactors as well as completing three new ones, including the two already under construction, by 2025.