updated 8/7/2007 3:45:22 PM ET 2007-08-07T19:45:22

Taiwan hopes to build a power plant that will use a strong current flowing off its east coast to generate electricity, an official said on Tuesday.

The plant is still in the planning stage, but once built, it would be the first plant in Asia to make use of the Kuroshio current — also known as the Black stream — that flows along the Pacific Ocean to the east of the island, said Chen Chin-teh, an Economics Ministry official in charge of energy development.

"The current's potential as an energy source was long ignored when oil was cheap," Chen told The Associated Press. "Now we believe it may become Taiwan's biggest asset in terms of a new energy source, more so than solar or wind power."

"You could consider it as a nuclear power plant that does not need plutonium to run," he said.

The Kuroshio is the world's second-largest warm current after the Gulf stream in the Atlantic Ocean. The Kuroshio is known for its strong, fast flow as it passes seas near the Philippines and Taiwan before running northeast toward Japan.

The stream, up to 90 miles wide, could be a powerful source of energy as it flows steadily at a rate of 3.3 feet a second, officials say.

The Economics Ministry recently began a three-year feasibility study on the power plant, spending $6 million to survey the Kuroshio current's flow and make preliminary designs of the generators.

Taiwan's proximity to the current's passage enables it to make use of the current's flow better than its neighbors, Chen said.

The plant could be costly to build, Chen said, noting the generators would have to be installed on the seabed and fastened to the shore with steel cables. But he did not provide a figure.

Taiwan may import technologies from Britain or the United States, countries that have more experience building generators, he said.

Taiwan imports 98 percent of its fuel, and it has been seeking new energy sources, including wind power, biodiesel fuel and alcohol made from sugar canes.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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