Fear Blind Alleys, Not Hairpin Turns
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 8, 2016
Executive Summary: Premier Lin is "considering restarting the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Number One Generator”. This shows he has a clear understanding of the reality of domestic supply. The public must not blame him or mock him for telling the truth. Instead it should applaud him. In fact, those who are taking pot shots at Lin Chuan are reckless fools charging headlong toward a precipice. Energy policy hairpin turns are nothing to fear. The only thing one must fear is energy policy blind alleys.
Full Text Below:
Premier Lin Chuan recently said the need for electricity may require the reactivation of the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, provided it is adjudged safe. It would be reactivated but not expanded. No sooner had he spoken, than a public outcry erupted. The new government swore that the elimination of nuclear power plants would not lead to power shortages. Yet not long after taking office, it completely reversed itself. Within two days, the green camp's own legislators and a former chairman of the Nuclear Energy Commission expressed opposition. The Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Number One Generator was once again stillborn. The new government totally reversed its energy policy twice in two days. The new government's commitment to its own policies is so feeble, even cabinet members are unwilling to stand behind the Premier. As a result the public is deeply concerned.
The new government's energy policy reversal was the result of high temperatures increasing electricity consumption, and a malfunction in the Number Six Thermal Power Plant in Taichung. By May 31, the standby capacity transfer rate had fallen to a mere 1.64%, the lowest in a decade. Another major plant failure, and Taiwan will immediately experience power shortages and brownouts. In order to meet power demands that day, Taipower even ordered thermal power plants operated above their rated capacities. The new Number One Thermal Power Plant in Linkou, which is not even officially in service, was “test run”. Only by adding its generating capacity were demands for power met, and then just barely.
This wave of power shortages was hardly a bolt out of the blue. This newspaper's editorials have warned about the danger for two years. Taiwan's stable power supply is disintegrating. With nuclear power or without, the government must respond, ASAP. Unfortunately, the Ma government failed to prevent the mothballing of the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant. It also failed to solve the problem of waste disposal for the Number One and Number Two plants. Before taking office, the DPP swore that the closing of nuclear power plants would not lead to power shortages. It coordinated with local governments to limit construction of thermal power plants in order to reduce air pollution. This string of evens has led Taiwan to the edge of a precipice.
Premier Lin wants to restart the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Number One Generator. The new government's energy policy has now come full circle. But what is the alternative? Force the public and industry to suffer power shortages?
The new government's energy policy has been condemned by domestic experts and the business community. A few days ago the American Chamber of Commerce issued its 2016 Taiwan White Paper. The paper reminded the new government of the need for a detailed energy plan to ensure a stable and affordable power supply. The report said that Taiwan relies almost entirely on imported energy. The abolition of nuclear power generation would lead to power shortages. Can the shortages be made up by renewable energy? The government must provide clear data to support its case.
Energy policy requires a clear recognition of reality. Only then are solutions possible. Only then can one achieve a balance between safe energy generation, stable power supplies, environmental protection, and affordable electricity rates. Lin Chuan performed a reality check. That was why he proposed restarting the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Number One Generator. Alas, such a glaringly apparent policy reversal gored the party's anti-nuclear sacred cow. Therefore the only thing it could do was slam on the brakes and reverse its policy a second time.
The proposal to restart the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Number One Generator met with widespread resistance. But the Executive Yuan had a way out. It reaffirmed its goal of a “nuclear-free homeland by 2025”. It ordered Taipower to issue a transparent electricity supply report, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to implement energy-saving measures. Can the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Number One Generator really be restarted? The Nuclear Energy Commission would issue an assessment for public evaluation. But these were merely delaying tactics, means by which to avoid confroting problems rather than adopt a pragmatic approach.
First of all, Taipower publishes long-term energy plans and domestic energy supply assessments on an annual basis. Over the past two years, the nation's generating equipment transfer capacity rate has ranged between 14.7% and 11.5%. This year the estimated rate is 9.2%. This is the first time in seventeen years it has fallen below 10%. Last year the government repeatedly warned about inadequate power supplies. This year's situation will only be worse. The information issued by Taipower is already crystal clear. The DPP is deliberately being evasive, pretending not to see. Roy S. Lee recently assured the business community that “there will be no power shortages this year". A few days later, upon assuming office, he changed his tune, saying "We cannot guarantee that there will be no power shortages". Cleary he realized the problem was not so simple.
Besides, the Nuclear Energy Commission only recently issued a press release. It said the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Number One Generator has already undergone "Taiwan Power Company safety checks, confirming its operational safety, and the information has already been made available to the public". In other words, the Nuclear Eneregy Commission has already acknowledged that the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Number One Generator, is safe and can operated without fear. Yet Nuclear Energy Commission Chairman Hsieh Hsiao-hsin said doubts remain, and the Executive Yuan wants the Nuclear Energy Commission to issue a safety report. What is this, if not flagrant evasion?
Premier Lin is "considering restarting the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, Number One Generator”. This shows he has a clear understanding of the reality of domestic supply. The public must not blame him or mock him for telling the truth. Instead it should applaud him. In fact, those who are taking pot shots at Lin Chuan are reckless fools charging headlong toward a precipice. Energy policy hairpin turns are nothing to fear. The only thing one must fear is energy policy blind alleys.