Among Kenting's beaches and resorts stands its gray-white dome, its nuclear power plant. Placed on the edge of a very space-limited island, the plant takes advantage of its location and uses the water to cool its reactors.  Though the plant was not built for aesthetic reasons, the idea of a nuclear power plant holds interest for tourists; it is considered a local landmark, and hundreds of people a year take pictures with the building. But little consideration is given to its meaning in terms of Taiwan and its energy sources, as well as the effects of the plant's location.
Recent attention has been called to the thermal effects of Kenting's nuclear reactors on the fish. The heat released from the plant is said to be destroying he coral reefs surrounding the beach, which in turn is throwing the local ecosystem off balance. Further, a shift in the biodiversity of the waters in this area could have harmful effects on the Kaoshong's local fishing industry. Government-sponsored research at the Academia Sinica has found that the water has, just over the last 26 years, raised the temperature 0.5 degrees. 
Kenting is the third of six power plants in Taiwan. The first research nuclear reactor was built in 1956, and immediately after, a flurry of nuclear energy departments sprang up including the Atomic Energy Council and the Nuclear Energy Research Institute. By 1986, a mere 30 years later, six nuclear plants had sprung up over the island. 
Taiwan's status as a small island has resulted in a severely limited number of resources. More than 97% of its energy is imported, including both fossil fuels and raw nuclear materials.  Because nuclear energy is significantly more cost-effective than other sources of energy, a Taiwanese and American firm signed an agreement on joint development of uranium ore in 1985, and in 1987, Taiwan entered into a contract with the Republic of South Africa as an additional source of its uranium ore. 
The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency released the following energy statistics on energy use in Taiwan:
"Electricity demand was growing at almost 5% per year, but this is slowing to about 3.3% pa to 2013. Nuclear power has been a significant part of the electricity supply for two decades and now provides one quarter of base-load power and 17% overall, though nuclear comprises only 11% of 46 GWe installed capacity. Coal-fired plants comprise 26% of capacity and in 2008 delivered 38% of the power. LNG provides 20% of the power. Total power generated in 2008 was 238 billion kWh, nuclear being 17% of this, 40.8 billion kWh gross, 39.3 TWh net." 
But the future of nuclear energy only increases the amount of dependence on nuclear energy. The six currently running nuclear facilities are all licensed to at least 2020 (the farthest to 2037). Their collective installed gross MWe adds up to around 5000 MWe. 
Waste from the plants goes to either a small radioactive waste storage facility on the small island of Lan-Yu, but in general the used fuel is directly disposed. The Kenting plants, along with the Chinshan plants (the first 2 plants built) require dry storage. Plans for digging a repository have been made and completion is set for 2032. 
Two more plants are to open in 2011 (originally planned for 2009).  Motivated by the country's fear that its fossil fuel supplies are unstable, nuclear power currently holds 1/5 of the energy in Taiwan. With the addition of these new plants to the list of Taiwan's energy sources, the hope is that energy for the island can become much more self-sufficient. 
© 2011 Brenda Ou. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
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