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Is Taiwan sleepwalking into an energy crisis?

By Angelica Oung - posted Friday, 5 July 2024

"Are you sure the Chinese Communist Party isn't behind the anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan?" That's the question I get over and over again as I explain Taiwan's seemingly inexplicable decision to close its last nuclear power reactors in the face of a possible energy blockade.

Unfortunately, the aversion to nuclear power is entirely home-grown with no help from the Chinese. It goes against not just our stated efforts to reach Net Zero by 2050 but threatens our very survival as a nation.


Former Trump administration Defense Official Elbridge Colby is worried about an energy blockade. Why isn't the DPP?

Taiwan's energy mix is highly dependent on fossil fuels right now, with coal and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) both taking about 40% of the mix. Due to the complex infrastructure involved with receiving LNG, we take just about daily shipments and a "full tank of gas" lasts less than 8 day in the summer. Coal is better, with about 6 week's supply at hand. But the goal is for coal to decrease and nuclear generation to go away altogether, leaving Taiwan with 50% LNG by 2025.

Lately, the "Hellscape" scenario outlined by head of INDOPACOM Adm. Samuel Paparo have been making the news. In that scenario, the US unleashes a furious storm of drones into the Taiwan Straits with the aim of delaying Chinese invasion forces until the calvalry can arrive. How long might that be? Paparo estimated 45 days. That's a long time for Taiwan to go without LNG shipments and I doubt any superchilled tankers would be up for braving the "hellscape" that the Taiwan straits would be turned into to make deliveries.

Taiwan has just 2 nuclear reactors left, both at the Maanshan Nuclear Power Plant. They are slated to close in July and next year respectively. Two reactors alone produce 6% of Taiwan's power, which doesn't seem like much but is more than solar at less than 5% and just under triple that of wind at 2.2%. More importantly, Taiwan's grid is already strained, with industry regularly "voluntold" to reduce production during peak hours in the summertime months. Losing that baseload could mean a further fragilization of our grid and sap competitiveness for industry.

As for the Net Zero by 2050 goal, our Environment Minister have already admitted to the press that it's aspirational rather than a concrete target. But the government is still determined to press ahead with the closures of the plants.


Standing up to get slapped down

It's not that there are not voices within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who sees necessity of nuclear energy for Taiwan's future. In fact, President Lai Ching-te has elevated figures from private industry such as the Minister of Economic Affairs JW Guo and head of National Development Council Paul Liu who each made encouraging statements about life extension not just for Maanshan but to bring back the idled 2nd Nuclear Power Plant at Kuosheng, which also hosts two Gigawatt-scale reactors.

Unfortunately after each of their statements, they would be spanked into line by other, more senior, DPP politicos, such as the Premier Cho Jun-tai, who said "The No Nuclear Homeland, that is a value. It's like, if we lose our values, life would lose meaning."

Nevertheless, voices of sanity keep piping up.

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This article was first published on Taipology.

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About the Author

Angelica Oung is a reporter and clean energy advocate in Taipei, Taiwan. Formerly a business reporter with the Taipei Times and ReNews, she covered the development of Taiwan’s offshore wind industry closely and widened her interest over time to include other aspects of energy, including nuclear power.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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