Taiwan to suspend operation of new nuclear plant: Media

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan's government has agreed to put on hold the planned 2016 commercial start-up of the country's fourth nuclear power plant, giving in to pressure from the opposition, local media reported on Friday.

President Ma ying-jeou's administration and his ruling party reached a decision late last night that the nearly completed nuclear plant will not be allowed to start commerical operations once construction is finished, the Economic Daily and the Commerical Times said.

The decision could spill over to financial markets on concerns that electricity prices may spike, hurting the economy, the reports said.

The move comes ahead of a planned meeting between Ma and the opposition party leader at 0200 GMT, the reports said.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

Taiwan's premier said earlier this week the government had rejected opposition demands to halt construction of the plant .

Plans for the island's fourth nuclear power plant have come under the spotlight in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, with the public skeptical about the safety of such facilities in earthquake-prone regions.

Taiwan's three current nuclear power facilities would have to serve longer if the fourth one does not start operating as planned, the economics ministry has said.

Taiwan's first nuclear plant is set to be decommissioned between 2018-19, while the second is set to close between 2021-23.

Some 40 per cent of the island's electricity is generated by burning coal, 30 per cent using natural gas and 18.4 per cent by nuclear power plants, according to the economics ministry.

Taiwan sits near the so-called ring of fire region of seismic activity around the Pacific Ocean.