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Taiwan shuts down 1 of 6 nuclear reactors

This photo taken in October 2012 shows the spent fuel pool at Taiwan's fourth nuclear power station in Gongliao, New Taipei City. (Photo courtesy of Taiwan Power Company/Kyodo)

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- Taiwan on Wednesday shut down one of its six nuclear reactors as its 40-year operating license expired, adding uncertainty to the island's power supply outlook.

State-owned Taiwan Power Co. said the No. 1 reactor of the No. 1 nuclear power plant in Shimen, New Taipei City, was retired from service on expiration day, while the plant's other reactor is scheduled to be retired next July.

It said the decommissioning process, involving the storage of used reactor fuel rods, is estimated to take about 25 years.

The company originally planned to store the fuel rods at an outdoor dry storage facility, but cannot do so due to the opposition of the New Taipei city government. If they cannot be discharged, the decommission process cannot begin.

Taiwan has two other nuclear power plants, each with two reactors. Currently, only three of the island's five reactors are operational, as two of them are under maintenance.

Construction of a fourth plant, also in New Taipei City, was suspended in July 2015 for three years over safety concerns in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Since then, construction has not been resumed because the policy of the Democratic Progressive Party, elected to power in 2016, has been to phase out nuclear power by 2025.

In the wake of Wednesday's No. 1 power plant's reactor shutdown, pro-nuclear power activists want the government to reconsider extending the life of the five remaining ones.

The operating licenses of the reactors at the No. 2 nuclear power plant in Wanli, New Taipei City, will expire in December 2021 and March 2023, and those of the reactors at the No. 3 facility in Pingtung, southern Taiwan, in July 2024 and May 2025.

After Taiwanese voters on Nov. 24 approved a legally binding referendum to repeal legislation that would have phased out nuclear energy by 2025, the government of President Tsai Ing-wen has promised to come up with a new energy policy within two months.

It has set the goal of increasing the percentage of electricity generated by natural gas to 50 percent and renewable energy to 20 percent, while decreasing that of coal power to 30 percent by 2025.

On Nov. 24, voters also approved referendums to phase out thermal power plants by an average of 1 percent annually and to stop construction of coal-powered plants and expansion of existing ones.

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