Plant Operation

Taiwan / Latest Reactor Shutdown Leaves island In ‘Precarious’ Position

By David Dalton
16 March 2023

Ruling party wants ‘nuclear-free homeland’ by 2025
Latest Reactor Shutdown Leaves island In ‘Precarious’ Position
The two-unit Kuosheng nuclear power station in Taiwan. Courtesy Taipower.
Unit 2 of Taiwan’s Kuosheng nuclear power station has been taken offline, leaving only two reactors in commercial operation and potentially making the island state’s energy situation more precarious in the near term.

The closure of Kuosheng-2 on 15 March leaves two units in operation at the Maanshan nuclear power station, but both are scheduled to be shut down in the next two years, fulfilling the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s promise of a “nuclear-free homeland” by 2025.

The four reactors that have been shut down had a total net capacity of 3,178 MW, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The two remaining reactors have a total net capacity of 1,874 MW.

Chinshan-1 was shut down in 2018, Chinshan-2 in 2019 and Kuosheng-1 in 2021.

A project to restart construction of the mothballed Lungmen nuclear power station has also been cancelled. The Lungmen project, known in Taiwan as the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, was to consist of two advanced boiling water reactor units, each of 1,300 MW net.

Work has been suspended since July 2014 following environmental protests over what campaigners said were the potential dangers of nuclear power. The project has also been delayed by political arguments and price increases.

Nuclear Generation Down To 10%

Seaver Wang, co-director of the energy and climate programme at the Breakthrough Institute, a California-based environmental think tank that supports nuclear energy, said the closure of Kushoeng-2 erodes the laudable progress that Taiwan has been making in other areas of clean energy while also making Taiwan’s energy situation more precarious in the near term.

Keeping Kuosheng-2 and the last two reactors at Maanshan operating for another 10 years and retiring equivalent coal plants instead, would have offset the equivalent of Kenya’s entire annual output of fossil fuel emissions, Wang said.

At one point, nuclear energy from all six reactors provided more than half of heavily industrialised Taiwan’s electricity. According to the IAEA, that had fallen to 10.8% in 2021.

HuffPost’s Alexander Kaufman wrote that fears of radioactive waste run deep in a nation that neighbours Japan, where the only atomic bombs dropped in wartime fell and where the world’s most recent reactor meltdown occurred.

“Taiwan’s unusual status as a functionally independent republic that much of the world recognises as part of China also limits its ability to advocate for itself in complex global negotiations over nuclear energy, and an agreement with the US has left Taipei subject to Washington’s rules over how it manages its own uranium fuel,” Kaufman wrote.

Over the past 10 years, Taiwan has built 1 GW of wind power and 10 GW of solar – tremendous strides that nevertheless fall far short of the government’s ambitions and leave the densely-populated nation of nearly 24 million dependant on fossil fuels for nearly 90% of its electricity needs.

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