If there is a topic both supporters of Biden and Trump agree about it is the need to bolster Taiwan’s security. For most this has meant selling it more advanced weaponry. But there’s another military danger Taiwan faces that Washington can help reduce — the vulnerability of its power reactors to precision PLA missile attacks.
In the attached Taipei Times piece, “Nuclear plants a big security risk,” I build on analysis Ian Easton of Project 2049 published earlier detailing Chinese instruction in targeting Taiwan’s reactors in their military guidebooks. Although China prefers to merely knock the plants out temporarily, the military is prepared to countenance radiological releases.
To shut down roughly 10 percent of Taiwan’s electrical generation, however, China needs only to fire a precise missile or drone near one of the reactors (say in their parking lot). Such strikes would also likely prompt local residents to flood the roads to escape possible follow-on attacks. If any of Taiwan’s active reactors were hit and suffered a loss of coolant, evacuation of many thousands to several million residents might be required.
This August, Taiwan will hold a referendum on whether or not to complete a fourth nuclear plant, which is located directly on one of China’s most preferred landing beaches. Technically and financially, completing the plant is a non-starter. Still, it is a political referendum on President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party’s rule, one that critically depends upon the support of environmentalists, who back President Tsai’s call to shut down all of Taiwan’s reactors by 2025.
It is unclear how realistic meeting that deadline might be. What isn’t is the nuclear security imperative for Taiwan to replace its reactors with nonnuclear alternatives as soon as possible. This is one nuclear security energy initiative that should enjoy broad political and technical support not only in the United States, but from much of Western Europe, as well as from Japan and South Korea.
By Henry Sokolski
As Taiwan’s August referendum on completing its Fourth Nuclear Power Plant approaches, one question that has not yet been fully considered is to what extent this and Taiwan’s other three plants are military liabilities — radioactive targets that China aims to attack.
At best, a threatened strike or an intentional near-miss against one plant would likely force the government to shut the other nuclear plants down as a precaution. At worst, a strike could produce Chernobyl-like contamination, forcing the evacuation of millions.
Some partial, temporary defenses are possible and should be pursued, but ultimately, the smart money is on substituting non-nuclear alternatives for these reactors as soon as possible.
As Ian Easton noted last month in these pages, Beijing released a 2013 internal course book on Taiwan’s military geography that spotlighted a potential amphibious landing area at Fulong Beach where Taiwan’s fourth incomplete nuclear plant sits (“Ian Easton On Taiwan: Are Taiwan’s nuclear plants safe from Beijing?” April 12, page 6).
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