I had a letter in the Taipei Times today on the subject of nuclear power. It argues that the high cost and long lead times of nuclear power projects defers investment in cleaner and safer forms of electricity generation. The text of the letter is below followed by details about anti-nuclear protests in Taipei.
Nuclear power is again in the spotlight following a serious nuclear incident in Japan triggered by last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. This has forced people in Taiwan and around the world to reconsider the risks of nuclear power plants.
Advocates of nuclear power frequently downplay these risks, while those who oppose nuclear power seek to emphasize them.
Instead of focusing on risk, I would like to present an argument against nuclear power based on financial considerations.
Construction of Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant began in 1997 and it was expected to begin operations in 2009. However, it has been delayed a number of times and is now expected to begin operating in 2013.
Several hundred billion New Taiwan dollars have been invested in the plant, which has yet to generate a single watt of electricity. What if that same amount of money had been invested in renewable energy projects beginning from 1997?
First, these projects would have begun to generate power in a much shorter time frame. Planning and construction of a wind or solar power plant should take no more than two years, compared with more than a decade for nuclear power. In the time frame of more than a decade Taiwan could have developed renewable energy capacity that would make a significant contribution to the nation’s energy needs.
Second, the development of wind and solar power plants would have stimulated the development of industry in Taiwan that could have manufactured these technologies for export. While these industries have developed in Taiwan in recent years, Taiwan could have become a world leader if it had promoted these industries earlier.
The key point is that nuclear power is a bad investment. Everyone would be better off if the money was invested elsewhere. This would avoid the risks associated with a nuclear accident. It would also spur the development [of] alternatives that are inherently safer.
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Anti-nuclear activists protested outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday. They called on the government to halt construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao. The Taipei Times has more details. There will be another anti-nuclear protest in Taipei on Sunday 20 March 2011. Meet at 1:30pm at the corner of Xinyi Road and Shaoxing South Street. More information here (中文).