Unit 2 of Taiwan's Kuosheng NPP has been closed in preparation for decommissioning in accordance with Taiwan's nuclear phase-out policy after its 40-year operating licence expired. Construction of Kuosheng 2, a 985 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR), began in 1976 and it began commercial operation in 1983.
In 2016, Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was elected on a platform of establishing a "nuclear-free homeland" by 2025. This required Taiwan's six operable power reactors to be decommissioned when their 40-year operating licences expired and was passed into law as an amendment to the Electricity Act. Although a referendum in 2018 obliged the government to cancel the amendment, the policy has remained in effect.
Taiwan had three NPPs, each with two units, at Chinshan, Kuosheng and Maanshan and two others under construction at Lungmen. Chinshan 1 was closed in December 2018, followed by Chinshan 2 in July 2019. Kuosheng 1 was closed in May 202, six months before its licence expired, after plant owner/operator Taipower said its used fuel storage was almost full. The operating licences of the two 936 MWe pressurised water reactors at Maanshan are due to expire in 2024 and 2025. Construction of two units at Lungmen has been suspended.
Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua said extending the service of Kuosheng 2 was impossible and defended the government's decision to close the unit. Supporters of nuclear power had argued that its operation should be extended because it would less vulnerable to global commodity markets and generate fewer emissions than natural gas. Wang said Taiwan's future power supply would remain stable with new natural gas generating units coming on line this summer in addition to renewable sources.
However, Kuomintang Legislator Wu I-ding told a press conference that the government would not be able to offset the loss with renewable energy, and would have to rely on "dirtier" and "more expensive" energy from fossil fuels to fill the gap. Wu also noted that nuclear power generation costs were only TWD1.5 ($0.05) per KWh, compared with TWD4 for power from fossil fuels and TWD5 for imported energy. Yeh Tsung-kuang, a professor at National Tsing Hua University's Institute of Nuclear Engineering & Science, warned that Kuosheng 2’s closure will put Taiwan at risk of energy shortages.
Yeh said he suspected the government is simply "burying its head in the sand" and planning to "find an explanation" when a future energy shortage occurs.
Image: The Kuosheng nuclear power plant (courtesy of Taipower)