Taipei, Thursday, August 21, 2014 14:16 (GMT+8)
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Commentary: Does Taiwan need another nuclear power plant?
Jackie Chang, DIGITIMES, Taipei [Tuesday 26 February 2013]

Taiwan is building its fourth nuclear power plant. The main island of Taiwan is only 36,193 square kilometers and already houses three nuclear power plants - two of them in New Taipei City in northern Taiwan and one located in Pintung County in the south. Now, the government is eager to begin operating the fourth one, which is also located in New Taipei City, despite activists' grave concerns about its safety.

If the fourth nuclear plant gets the green light to operate, it means there will be three running nuclear power plants in the city, the most densely pouplated on in Taiwan, where the population density is high.

Just how small Taiwan's main island is? Taiwan has a land mass smaller than Bhutan and larger than Belgium. It is just a bit bigger than Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Taiwan has a population of about 23 million, with almost half of them living in northern Taiwan.

Recently, the parliament is reviewing a proposal for an additional NT$40 billion (US$134 million) budget for the new plant and this has reignited a debate over the necessity of a fourth nuclear power plant. The construction budget was originally set at around NT$169.7 billion but due to delays and other reasons, the spending will have to increase to NT$330 billion.

Currently, the three nuclear power plants support 20% of total electricity need in Taiwan, according Global Post, a US-based news media.

Taiwan's average electricity price is low, currently around NT$3.04/kWh, compared to many developed countries such as Denmark, Germany, and the US. Instead of developing renewable energy sources through strong policy support, the Taiwan government is keen to continue relying on nuclear power.

Taiwan is a solar product producer country but the number of domestic solar PV installations is low. The solar firms in Taiwan do not have government support and have been struggling to expand into the international market and instead of helping the industry to build strong brands or provide generous subsidies to promote domestic installations to reduce the burden on burning coal or using nuclear to produce electricy, the government plans to invest more money into a fourth nuclear power plant.

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