Taipei, April 15 (CNA) Premier Lai Ching-te reiterated on Sunday that there is no timetable for when the No. 2 reactor at the Kuosheng Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei will be reactivated after it automatically shut down late last month. Speaking at a media roundtable in Hualien County, Lai said safety will not be sacrificed in the rush to meet electricity demand. In order for a restart to be authorized, a review must be conducted by the Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Commission based on the highest safety standards, he said. "The government will never sacrifice the health of its citizens in exchange for economic development," Lai pledged.The No. 2 reactor of Taiwan's second nuclear power plant automatically shut down on March 28 as it was just coming back online after being idle for nearly two years for repairs and a major maintenance overhaul.Based on an initial inspection by state-run power supplier Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), the problem was believed to be caused by a steam pressure overload, which triggered the reactor's safety mechanism and shut the reactor down.Lai on Sunday also responded to criticism that the government will continue to create more air pollution by increasing the use of coal-fired power plants in pursuit of a policy to end the use of nuclear power by 2025.The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) gave a green light on March 14 to a request by Taipower to expand the Shen'ao Power Plant by installing two additional 600 MW coal-burning generators, provoking a public outcry.Lai said the decision to expand the Shen'ao plant, also in New Taipei, was done to prevent power shortages in northern Taiwan.With the oil-fired Hsieh-ho Power Plant in Keelung and the No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants in New Taipei scheduled to be decommissioned by 2024, northern Taiwan will face an electricity shortfall of 6 percent by that time.The Shen'ao coal-fired power plant is too small to be turned into one that runs on natural gas, Lai said, arguing that the government had no other choice but to expand the existing plant to meet potential power shortages in years to come.Lai said the plant will adopt ultra-supercritical technologies that are capable of generating energy more efficiently with lower carbon emissions.It will also use coal that has the fewest impurities and install pollution control and mitigation systems, and the Shen'ao plant can even be equipped with two sets of pollution control and mitigation systems if need be, Lai said.
Premier Lai Ching-te/Photo courtesy of CNA