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Taiwan to shut down 2nd nuclear reactor within days

Protesters take part in the anti-nuclear power energy protest march in Taipei, Taiwan, on April 27, 2019. (NurPhoto/Getty/Kyodo)

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- Taiwan's Atomic Energy Council agreed on Friday to shut down a second nuclear reactor on Monday when its 40-year operating license expires, moving the island a step closer to nuclear-free status.

The decommissioning of the No. 2 reactor of the No. 1 nuclear power plant in Shimen, New Taipei City, follows that of the plant's No. 1 reactor, closed for the same reason last December.

Taiwan still has two other nuclear power plants, each with two reactors.

In a statement, the council said it issued the decommission license Friday to Taiwan Power Co., the builder and operator of the facility, after the state-owned power utility submitted relevant documents.

Li Chi-ssu, deputy director of the council's Department of Nuclear Regulation, told Kyodo News that with the license, the company can now begin the lengthy process of discharging and storing spent fuel rods.

It originally planned to store them at an outdoor dry storage facility, but cannot do so due to the opposition of the New Taipei City government.

With the retirement of the two reactors, electricity generated by nuclear power will be reduced from 18 percent to 13 percent. When all six reactors were operational, nuclear power provided nearly 20 percent of the island's electricity.

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.

Construction remains stalled because the policy of the Democratic Progressive Party, elected to power in 2016, has been to phase out nuclear power by 2025.

The DPP 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.

However, there have been calls for continuation of nuclear power. On Nov. 24 last year, Taiwanese voters approved a legally binding referendum to repeal legislation that would have phased out nuclear energy by 2025.

The operating licenses of the two 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 other two reactors at the No. 3 facility in Pingtung, southern Taiwan, in July 2024 and May 2025.

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