New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫, front) / Photo courtesy of New Taipei City government
Taipei, Dec. 5 (CNA) New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) said Wednesday that a solution has to be found for the disposal of nuclear waste at a power plant in the city that was due to begin a decommissioning process Wednesday but could not proceed because of administrative problems.
The decommissioning of the first reactor at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant has been put on hold because the state-run operator, Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), did not construct the nuclear waste dry storage facility in line with the approved plans, Chu said.
As a result, the 816 fuel rods in the first reactor will have to remain in place, Chu told reporters.
"Safety is important," he said, adding that spent fuel has been stored "provisionally" at the Jinshan plant since it began operations 40 years ago.
The plan to decommission the two reactors at the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant included the construction of an outdoor storage yard at the plant site for the dry storage of spent nuclear fuel.
The storage facility was built in 2013 but has yet to pass a New Taipei government inspection needed to obtain an operating permit, leaving the decommissioning process in limbo.
Chu said the New Taipei Government is not opposed to the method of dry storage, as long as the storage facility is built based on approved construction plans.
Taipower, however, has altered the construction plans that were initially approved by the city government, he said.
According to Chu, he has also asked Taipower to explain why it decided on an outdoor instead on an indoor storage facility, a question that he said scholars and experts in the field have also raised.
In any case, the Jinshan plant cannot be the final site for the disposal of nuclear waste, Chu said, calling on the relevant authorities to identify a permanent disposal site as soon as possible.
New Taipei is home to Taiwan's first, second, and fourth nuclear power plants. The Jinshan plant was scheduled to begin decommissioning Wednesday, while the two reactors at the second plant -- the Kuosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District -- were set to start the decommissioning process in December 2021 and March 2023, respectively.
Due to administrative issues between Taipower and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), however, Taipower did not obtain the EPA permit for decommissioning before the scheduled deadline.
In addition, the Nov. 24 vote on referendums pertaining to electricity supply in Taiwan has resulted in uncertainty over the fate of the country's nuclear power plants.
On Wednesday, lawmaker Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party urged New Taipei Mayor-elect Hou You-yi (侯友宜) to clearly state his stance on two relevant proposals -- to delay the decommissioning of the Kuosheng plant and to reopen the mothballed Longmen Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District.
While Hou did not respond, New Taipei government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) said the Kuosheng plant has missed the deadline to apply for a postponement of its decommissioning start date, which was in March this year.
As a result, "there will be no delay," Chang said.
Under Taiwan law, a plan to postpone the schedule for the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant must be presented to the relevant authorities five years in advance.