03/09/2013, 00.00
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Taiwan at crossroads on nuclear power: fourth power plant ignites controversy

by Xin Yage
The country aims to rid itself of polluting energy sources, but wind and solar power are not enough to meet needs. And nuclear energy, two years from Fukushima, terrifies the population that wants a referendum to decide on the issue.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - In addition to the world baseball championships in Japan, one of the most popular sports in Taiwan, the other issue occupying space in Taiwanese media is the debate on nuclear energy. Controversy has been raised over the completion of the fourth nuclear power plant (simply called "Nuke 4", 核四) under construction in the territory of New Taipei (新 北市), in the north of the island, between the cities of Taipei and Keelung (基隆).

Especially after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, two years ago this March 11, opposition to the completion of the nuclear power plant has grown exponentially. In this last week many artists and TV presenters appeared on the screen or the web expressing their opposition to the completion of the plant "for our own good, that of our children and all future generations."

Six short films were also shot by young directors to show how a nuclear accident would be catastrophic for the island's future. A famous artist, along with other colleagues, organized a press conference in which he stressed that "it is foolish to continue on the path of nuclear power because no one knows when a natural disaster could strike and security measures are always too weak in spite of a continuous improvement" .

Taiwan has three nuclear power plants already in operation, with a strong increase at the same time in green and renewable energy sources, especially wind and solar power. The long-term program is to make the island totally free from nuclear energy for total security and sustainability as well as a completely environmentally friendly production.

The opposition party (the Progressive Democrats, 民主 进步 党) has set 2025 as the deadline to make the island free from nuclear energy. The government for its part believes this proposal impractical because, in the words of the Minister of Finance Chang Chiah-juch (张家 祝), "at present the renewable sources, while considering all the incentives already available, are still too expensive. Wages will not grow in proportion to the increase in the cost of the electricity bill, if we remove all nuclear now. "

The first three nuclear power plants will be progressively dismantled by 2025, but only in view of increased efficiency from renewable energy plants and affordable electricity from these sources, the fourth power plant would be an essential support in this gradual shift from a nuclear-free Taiwan; "Even though we do not know when we can do without the fourth power plant, we certainly will not be building a fifth plant," said the minister yesterday.

For his part, Prime Minister Jiang Yi-hua (江宜桦) said he was confident that the government will present all of the safety data in a transparent manner and the population will change its perception of the construction of the plant, seeing it as a totally safe. For this reason, yesterday the finance minister announced a special independent commission to study the safety of the plant.

In the meantime, the possibility of a popular referendum on the issue is spreading. If the proposal is approved, Lai Shyhbao (赖 士 葆) on behalf of Kuomintang (the Nationalist Party, 国民党) proposes the formula: "Do you agree with halting the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant and the preventing it from becoming operational? ' ("你 是否 同意 核四 厂 停止 兴建 不得 运转?").

Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鸿源) said that the referendum should be taken "at the end of this year," when more accurate data on its safety will be available and the population will be given a more accurate and less emotive account of a possible nuclear accident.

In view of this debate and the proximity of the second anniversary of the disaster at Fukushima, Saturday, March 9 several demonstrations in opposition to the construction of the plant will be held in Taiwan.


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