Sat, Jan 13, 2001 - Page 17 News List

Judges look at nuke plan and the law

WAITING GAME Business leaders are holding their breath as they await a decision by the Council of Grand Justices on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant

By Richard Dobson  /  STAFF REPORTER

Economic concerns are not factored into the yet-to-be-announced interpretation by the Council of Grand Justices of whether the Cabinet's decision to ax the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project violated the constitution, according to one of the justices.

Justice Wang Che-chien (王澤鑑) said the deliberations of 15-member council had focused on whether the cabinet had adhered to procedure stated in the constitution and not economic or politcal factors related to the issue.

"The economic and social impact of the nuclear power plant will be left to the government and the Legislative Yuan to decide," Wang said. He added that the council would announce its decision on Monday at 3pm.

Heavy economic losses by the government and shaken confidence in the business sector in the nation's ability to maintain its supply of electricy if the 2,700-megawatt plant is cancelled was reported by some local media to have been weighing on the council's deliberations.

But Wang denied the reports, saying that the ruling would be a "very good example of judicial independence. None of my collegaues had any pressure from anyone, including the government." The final outcome of the nuclear plant project, which was axed by the Cabinet in October, has received the sharply focused attention of the nation's industry leaders. Fears among business leaders that cancellation of the plant would lead to power shortages have not been eased by the government's plan to make up the shortfall by encouraging the expansion of independent power production.

A ruling by the council that cancellation of the plant, which is already more than 30 percent complete, was in violation of the constitution could precipitate a cabinet reshuffle only four months after the last one over the same issue.

According to George Hsu (許志義), director of the Chunghua Institution of Economic Research (中華經濟研究院), the political unrest caused by such an eventuality would have a "strong economic impact on Taiwan."

The political symbolism of a decision by the council to rule the cabinet's action as unconstitutional, undermining the executive authority of the cabinet, would cause further "turmoil in the economy," Hsu said.

Hsu's sentiments were echoed by Chen Tien-jy (陳添枝), and economics professor at National Taiwan University, who said a "clear cut" decision in favor of the cabinet's action would be the best outcome from an economic standpoint. He said that an ambigious ruling would lead to widely differing interpretations and escalate the current conflict between the government and opposition parties.

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