Taiwan Protests Halt Reactor Construction and the 90% Complete Lie
Friends i have never met have been successful in stopping the government of Taiwan from completing 2 reactors until there is a national referendum on them. At the center of this political push has been the large popular protests in the capital city of Taipei where thousands have protested for days culminating this past weekend in a 50K person protest.
Taiwan, like Japan, has a serious earthquake problem. In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude quake killed around 2,400 people in the island’s deadliest natural disaster in recent history. Like Japan, Taiwan has very little in the way of domestic energy sources. Like Japan, Taiwan as has a captured nuclear regulator which cares far more about industry profits than public safety. And also similarly to it’s neighbor to the north, Taiwan sees expanding domestic energy production as central to continued economic growth. In this vexing environment 58.7% of Taiwanese want construction on these nearly completed reactors stopped. And 65.3% say they do not have faith in the governments ability to operate the reactors safely. And thus they have gone to the streets.
From a utilities perspective there is a textbook way to build a nuclear power plant. The utility starts by agreeing to an “aggressive but realistic” budget and construction schedule for the reactor. Then you keep raising costs until you are done always pointing back to the sunk costs and saying “we have spent so much and we are almost finished, we can’t stop now.”
For these Lungmen reactors the initial cost was estimated at US$3,7 billion with a completion date of 2004, Today they are over a decade late in completion and the utility has spent over $9.9 billion on the project. Taipower is the responsible utility which is saying these two reactors are over 90% completed and that halting the project will mean the company will go bankrupt. This ignores the fact that Taipower is a publicly owned utility which can tap government money as needed.
“Over 90% completed” is one of the nuclear industries favorite statistics. If you fight reactors for any period of time you will hear this number a lot. And you will watch as this type of lie dominates the sunk cost conversation. And years later and billions more lost you will realize that you were being told a story so these reactors built on lies could be completed.