Sat, May 06, 2000 - Page 17 News List

New CEPD chief pushes nuclear vote

POWER STRUGGLE Chen Po-chih says the issue of whether to go ahead with construction of the fourth nuclear power plant should be decided by popular vote

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chen Po-chih (陳博志), incoming head of the Council for Economic Planning and Development (經建會), said yesterday that if the dispute over the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant cannot be resolved, the matter should then be decided through a referendum.

"In matters of national interest, it is the people that make the final judgement," Chen said during a radio interview with the Voice of Taipei Broadcastng, adding that heated public debate over the issue has led to widespread misunderstanding of the project's details.

"If the people are to be empowered to decide, they must be provided with all the facts so they fully understand all aspects of the matter," he said.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (經濟部) has already invited a number of experts and scholars to review the project. If they conclude that there is no public consensus on whether the plant should go forward, a referendum should be held, Chen said.

Chen said that a decision on the project should be weighed not in light of how much money has already been spent on the project, but how much has yet to be laid out.

"Those people who oppose halting the project say that since close to NT$100 billion has already been spent, to stop the project now would waste all that money," he said. "But money already spent should be forgotten, because it can't be reclaimed ... What should be considered is the cost of completing the project or implementing an alternative power generation plan."

Chen drew upon a stock investment analogy to illustrate his point.

"If a share you bought for NT$100 drops to NT$50, do you buy more or start to sell?" Chen said. "You must look at the future change in price, not your original outlay."

Officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs have argued that stopping the construction at this point would cause not only losses of more than NT$86.4 billion already spent on the project, but also create a shortage of up to 2,400 megawatts in northern Taiwan in four to five years' time.

Chen's call for a referendum on the power plant is also in align with the stance of DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) and lawmakers, who earlier said the matter should be put to a vote.

Lin has since toughened his stance, saying that if Premier-designate Tang Fei (唐飛) and other incoming Cabinet members support the plant's construction, they will be removed from their positions.

Lin Chun-yi, incoming head of the Environmental Protection Administration, added to the discussion yesterday, saying that a "180 degree policy reversal would not be a responsible attitude for the new administration to take."

Lin, who spoke to reporters after meeting with President-elect Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), said more discussion on the topic was required and he would look into the previous impact assessment of the nuclear power plant.

However, Lin made it clear that he was not throwing his support behind the project's continuation, saying, "Taiwan's entire resource policy should be revised ... that is the responsibility of the new economics ministry."

In response to yesterday's remarks, Taiwan Power (台電), which is building the NT$170 billion plant in Kungliao, offered its standard line on fourth plant issue, saying: "[Because] there is still no new policy, we will continue to follow the original policy."

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