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Nuclear Power in Taiwan

(Updated January 2014)

  • Taiwan has six nuclear power reactors operating, and two advanced reactors are under construction.
  • Nuclear power is considerably cheaper than alternatives.

 

Taiwan imports 97.5% of its energy, which is vital to the rapidly industrialising economy. Energy demand grew at 3.5% per year over 1992-2012, and in 2012 half the demand was for electricity. Over that period, LNG imports grew eight-fold, mostly for electricity.

Electricity production grew at 4.4% per year 1992-2012, and per capita electricity consumption was 10,424 kWh in 2012. Nuclear power has been a significant part of the electricity supply for two decades and now provides one quarter of base-load power and 16% overall. Total power generated in 2012 was 250 billion kWh gross, nuclear providing 40 TWh, coal 123 TWh, oil 6.4 TWh, LNG 67 TWh, hydro (including pumped storage) 8.6 TWh, biofuels and waste 3.4 TWh, solar and wind 1.6 TWh. Generating capacity in 2012 was 48.4 GWe, with 17.4 GWe coal, 15.9 GWe LNG, 5.1 GWe nuclear, 4.7 GWe hydro (including pumped storage), 0.57 GWe wind and 0.22 GWe solar.

There has been a concerted program to develop capacity under the Renewable Energy Development Act of 2009, and by the end of 2013, 3.76 GWe (peak) was installed. The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) target is 9.95 GWe by 2030. In 2013 the capacity factor for offshore wind was 38%, for onshore wind 28% and for solar PV 14%.

Nuclear plants

The three nuclear plants comprise four General Electric boiling water reactors and two Westinghouse pressurised water reactors. Construction of the first unit began in 1972. They are all operated by the utility Taipower, under the MOEA, and were expected to have 40-year lifetimes. Five of the six units had undergone minor uprates by the end of 2008, resulting in net 44 MWe increase.

Operating Taiwan nuclear power reactors

Units type MWe gross
MWe net Start up* Licenced to
Chinshan 1 BWR 636 604 1978 2018
Chinshan 2 BWR 636 604 1979 2019
Kuosheng 1 BWR 985 948 1981 2021
Kuosheng 2 BWR 985 948 1983 2023
Maanshan 1 PWR 951 900 1984 2024
Maanshan 2 PWR 951 923 1985 2025
Total (6) 4927 MWe net
   

* dates are for start of commercial operation.

In 2007 the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) said that Chinshan BWR plant had undergone a safety evaluation and was safe to run for a further 20 years following planned licence expiry in 2017. The AEC had approved this life extension, though in November 2011 a new national energy policy disallowed it and affirmed simply a 40-year operating life. Taipower had expected to seek 20-year licence renewals for all six reactors.

In 2009 Taipower said that it planned to replace the steam generators of the two Maanshan PWR reactors by about 2020 if it could obtain life extensions from the AEC. This and other work is expected to yield uprates of some 440 MWe across the six reactors.

There are two 1350 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactors under construction at Lungmen, near Taipei. Initial plans to procure the units on an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) basis failed, and contacts were awarded to GE for the nuclear reactors, Mitsubishi for the turbines and others for the rest, making it a particularly difficult project to manage. Construction began in 1999 with intention of 2004 completion.

When the two reactors were one third complete a new cabinet cancelled the project but work resumed the following year later after legal appeal and a government resolution in favour. The project was thus significantly delayed by this, in addition to other delays. A date for completion of the first unit was to be announced early in 2012 - in June 2011 it was undergoing pre-operational testing, with the second unit about a year behind. In January 2014 Taipower said unit 1 would come into operation in 2015 and unit 2 in 2017. “Full testing” of systems in unit 1 should be complete in June 2014, and fuel loading in September. 

Cost escalation due to the construction hiatus plus project management and engineering problems had pushed the projected cost to over US$ 2900/kW, and as of March 2009, $1.15 billion was required to finish the project, which was then 88.6% complete. In 2011 the AEC was scathing concerning Taipower's management of the project.

Taiwan nuclear reactors under construction

  type MWe net  start-up commercial operation
Lungmen 1 ABWR 1300 late 2014 2015
Lungmen 2 ABWR 1300 2016? 2017
Total (2)   2600    

also known as Taipei County plant, each unit 1350 MWe gross

In May 2009 Taipower was examining the prospects for six more reactors, starting with a pair at an established site to be on line about 2020, though more recently it has projected one further unit beyond Lungmen 1&2 being on line by 2025.

Following the Fukushima accident in March 2011, the AEC initiated a comprehensive nuclear safety review, and the first phase of this was completed in September. The AEC also strengthened its radiation protection capacity and contingency mechanisms, since Taiwan is very prone to seismic activity. In January 2012 the AEC said that its post-Fukushima inspections found "no safety concerns" with the six operating nuclear units. It also required Taipower itself to review the nuclear plants' safety margins by following the European Union's reactor stress test requirements.

A review conducted by the European Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators' Group (ENSREG) in 2013 confirmed that the safety standards used by Taiwan’s nuclear power plants are generally high and comply with international state-of-the-art practices. However ion the light of earlier AEC stress tests the review recommended that Taiwan should update its assessment of all natural hazards, notably earthquakes and tsunamis, so as to be better prepared for such. The AEC plans to invite a follow-up review in three years.

Nuclear output on Taiwan is very cost competitive at US$ 1.9 cents/kWh in 2008 now that the six reactors have been depreciated.  Average Taiwan generation cost was 7.0 c/kWh in 2008, with coal-fired generation US$ 5.8 cents/kWh, and LNG US$ 11.25 cents/kWh. During their first ten years of operation the Lungmen reactors are expected to generate at US$ 3.8 cents/kWh.

Fuel cycle & wastes

All materials and services are imported, including 850,000 SWU of enrichment.

A low-level radioactive waste storage facility is operated on Lan-Yu island by Taipower.

Policy for used fuel is direct disposal, though reprocessing is under consideration. Dry storage for Chinshan and Kuosheng will be needed. A geological repository is planned for 2032 operation.

Research & Development

There are four research reactors in operation on Taiwan, ranging up to 2.8 MW. TRR, a 40 MW heavy water reactor, was shut down in 1987 and was to be redesigned as a light water reactor. Two small research reactors are shut down and decommissioning.

Organisation, regulation and safety

The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) consists of representatives from relevant government ministries. The Radwaste Administration is a subsidiary body and is regulator in respect to radioactive wastes. 

The Nuclear Regulatory Division is also part of the AEC, as is the Radiation Protection Division. The AEC is also responsible for safeguards. The AEC’s technical support subsidiary is the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research (INER).

The Atomic Energy Law came in to force in 1968 and various regulations have been promulgated under it.

In 2012 a new Nuclear Safety Authority was to be established to take over from AEC as regulator, and the AEC was to be merged with the Ministry of Science & Technology. The INER would be moved to the Ministry of Economy & Energy and the 'nuclear' focus dropped. However, in February 2013 cabinet decided to downgrade the AEC from ministerial level and turn it into a safety inspection commission – Nuclear Safety Commission – directly under cabinet.

In 2011 Taiwan and mainland China signed an agreement on nuclear safety and emergency reporting. Under the agreement, China and Taiwan will provide each other with information on their nuclear power plants, regulations and standards for nuclear safety, and exchange their experiences in nuclear safety and plant ageing. It also calls for them to cooperate on nuclear incident communications rated at INES Level 2 or above, environmental radiation monitoring, as well as emergency preparedness and response. Taiwan's AEC says that the agreement will promote cross-Strait nuclear power safety information transparency and enhance the safety and operating performance of nuclear power plants so as to ensure the safety of people on both sides.

The USA has a nuclear cooperation agreement with Taiwan dating from 1972 and running to June 2014. This was renewed indefinitely in December 2013, subject to ratification in both parliaments.

Non-proliferation

All nuclear facilities on Taiwan are subject to a non-governmental safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and all fall under full safeguards.

Taiwan signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it but after 1971 the People's Republic of China replaced Taiwan in the NPT and the IAEA. In terms of such treaties and organisations, and for those countries which adhere to a one-China Policy, Taiwan does not exist as an independent state. The USA recognises Taiwan as an independent state and has state to state relations with it. Taiwan has a unique status. Nuclear safeguards are applied in Taiwan under a trilateral agreement between Taiwan, the USA and the IAEA.

Thus the IAEA applies safeguards in Taiwan to all nuclear material and nuclear facilities as if it were an NPT non-nuclear-weapon state Party; it conducts regular inspections including Additional Protocol verification activities.

Main Sources:

MOEA, Bureau of Energy, 2013, Energy Statistics Handbook 2012 (2nd edn).