by Matthew Strong
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The country’s first and second nuclear plants could be taken out of service in June next year because of waste storage issues, the Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council said Wednesday.
The suggestion made by officials at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan Education Committee came just ahead of the fifth anniversary of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, which has been marked by yearly protests in Taiwan as well.
AEC Minister Chou Yuan-ching said the first reactor at the first nuclear plant has been out of action since December 2014 because of a loose handle on a fuel rod cask. The spent fuel pools for the first plant’s second reactor and for both reactors at the second nuclear plant would be full by June 2017, meaning that both plants could have to be taken out of service at that time, Chou reportedly said.
Questions about the issue were triggered by a recent statement from New Taipei City Mayor Eric Liluan Chu, in which he turned down the prospect of storing nuclear waste at the two plants. Both nuclear plants are located on Taiwan’s north coast in New Taipei City, while only the third nuclear plant is situated in the south, in Pingtung County near the popular beach resort of Kenting.
Kuomintang lawmaker Apollo Chen asked Chou how long the two nuclear plants could produce high-level radioactive waste until their spent fuel pools were full.
The AEC minister mentioned mid-2017 as the end dates, saying that if the pools were full, Taiwan Power Corporation, which operates the nuclear plants, could ask for them to be shut down. However, if the storage problems were solved later on, Taipower could also start the reactors up again, he said. The third nuclear plant meanwhile had no such problems, he added.
Under existing conditions, the first nuclear plant’s first reactor can operate until December 2018 and the second until July 2019. At the second nuclear plant, the first reactor can function until December 2021 and the second until March 2023.
President-elect Tsai Ing-wen, who is scheduled to be sworn in on May 20, has promised Taiwan would become a nuclear-free country in 2025 at the latest.