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Extending life of nuclear plant puts public safety at risk

26 October 2009

State-owned Taiwan Power Company wants to extend the life of the Chinshan plant, its oldest nuclear power plant for another 20 years, triggering alarm among activists who believe it could put public safety at risk.

Extending life of nuclear plant puts public safety at risk
Extending life of nuclear plant puts public safety at risk

The Chinshan plant, located in northeastern Taiwan, has been operational since 1978 and the licenses of its two reactors are due to expire in 2018 and 2019.

The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) will undergo extensive research and evaluation on the proposal for the safety of the public and expects to reach a decision by September 2011. The AEC will not approve the application unless safety of the plant is ensured during the extended period.

The issue has sparked a debate as some favour renewing licenses for the plant, citing high fuel prices and global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Taiwan's carbon dioxide emissions could be 7.3 million tonnes lower per year if the nuclear power plant is allowed to keep running after 40 years of operation compared with shutting it down.

However, opposing views from activists fear public safety and also cite a shortage of space to store the nuclear waste. Nuclear power is actually costlier than power from conventional sources like coal, gas and hydro. And once all the hidden costs are factored in, some people believe it would be costlier than even from renewable sources, like wind, in particular.

Nuclear power is also intrinsically hazardous, as large amount of radiation is routinely released at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle. An even more intractable problem is that of safe storage of nuclear waste and safe disposal of outlived power plants, given the extremely long half-lives of some of the radioactive substances involved.


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