Taiwan Power Corp. President fears unsolvable debt over nuclear plant
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-05-07 03:39 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The fourth nuclear plant should first be completed no matter whether it would function or not, Taiwan Power Corporation President Chu Wen-chen said Tuesday, complaining he had no way of solving NT$500 billion (US$16.9 billion) in debt if the project faltered.

The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou is planning to hold a nationwide nuclear referendum before the end of the year about the plant under construction in Gongliao, New Taipei City, but opponents want the government to save money and effort by scrapping the project immediately without a vote. Public opinion polls show opposition to the plant reaching 70 percent and more.

The plant was just one step out of a hundred away from completion, so no matter whether one thought it was good or bad, it first needed to be completed before a decision was made what to do with it, Chu said. After its completion, the mood might change and regrets might come to the surface, but the plant would still be there, the Taipower official said.

Chu said that he had no way of solving a NT$500 billion problem, if you added the NT$300 billion (US$10.1 billion) spent so far on the nuclear plant to the company’s NT$200 billion (US$6.7 billion) in losses.

The company president, who took office last week, said that he could understand increased public fears about safety in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, but that the final decision was in the hands of the government since as a state-run utility, Taipower had the obligation to follow official energy policies.

The company played down recent accusations that the nuclear plant was prone to flooding, saying those were problems of the past which had already been solved.

Taipower and the government have been defending the project by warning against rises in power rates and potential power shortages as early as 2015 if the fourth nuclear plant fails to go into operation.

Taiwan’s three older nuclear plants could be gradually phased out if the fourth one is completed, officials have said. The opposition wants a nuclear-free country by 2025, but the government said no sufficient alternatives will be in place by that time.

City University of Hong Kong President Way Kuo told Ma at a speech at the Presidential Office Tuesday that the demand for nuclear energy had fallen after the Fukushima incident even though it had gone in a rising line before that, reports said. Kuo said that on the whole, the public was skeptical while governments supported nuclear energy.

Taiwan’s anti-nuclear movement is planning a mass rally for May 19, the eve of Ma’s fifth anniversary in power, after having mobilized more than 200,000 people last March 9.

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