Sat, May 06, 2000 - Page 9 News List

Nuclear power is a problem, not a solution

Much of the danger involved with nuclear energy comes from public misperception and outright ignorance of its potential hazards. Only education can truly empower the people

By Lin Pi-yao

The issue of the Fourth Nuclear Power Station has posed a challenge to Taiwan's new government. President-elect Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) from the anti-nuclear DPP, promised in his campaign to stop the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. On the very day when he won the presidential election on March 18, Japanese environmental protection groups immediately expressed their concern about the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in their congratulation letters. After all, the construction of the power plant has long been in the limelight. In spite of the fact that the government will be presided over by an anti-nuclear energy party, the solution to the controversy surrounding the Fourth Nuclear Power Station goes beyond simply making good on election promises.

Although media attention on the Chernobyl accident has flagged away, the after-effects of the incident are just starting to get more and more visible. After seeing reports in the foreign media about the catastrophic after-effects of the Chernobyl incident on public television, we should learn from their mistake.

The tragedy of the Chernobyl accident delivers two warnings to the world. First, 100 percent security at nuclear power plants is a broken myth and the risk of nuclear power must not be underestimated or ignored. Second, nuclear policies made in a dictatorial economic system would be the source of disastrous aftermath.

The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev once said that he was "kidnapped" by the Chernobyl accident. Ten years after the disaster, Chernobyl "kidnapped" the G7 countries because they agreed to pay the cost of shutting down the Chernobyl reactors but have thus far not fulfilled that promise. The shadow of Chernobyl still lingers around Western countries and its influence has far outweighed that of Three Mile Island accident in the US.

The decision-making patterns in Taiwan's nuclear energy policy has been similar to that of the former Soviet Union and has also been a source of problems. Taiwan's flawed nuclear energy policy has led to an anti-nuclear power movement. Designating April 26 -- the anniversary of the Chernobyl accident -- as Taiwan's anti-nuclear energy day is by no means an emotional repercussion.

The anti-nuclear power movement has been strongly linked to the establishment of Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (台灣環保聯盟). Many members of the DPP's New Tide faction (新潮流系) used to be important activists in Taiwan's anti-nuclear energy movement in its early years. The fact that the DPP had pushed for a referendum on the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has demonstrated the party's proclivity against nuclear power. By analysing the members of environmental protection groups, we can conclude three factors have given rise to the anti-nuclear energy movement in Taiwan.

The legacy of misinformation

First, the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has been the product of "fixed policies" during the dictatorial rule of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). This situation was similar to that of the former Soviet Union, where the government covered up or downplayed the risks of nuclear power. The government even guaranteed that nuclear power plants were 200 percent safe. Furthermore, the Nuclear Energy Commission was established to serve as a professional "cosmetician" to keep mistakes under wraps. When the Chernobyl accident happened 14 years ago, the commission openly fooled Taiwanese people -- in order to repress people's anxiety about nuclear power security -- by claiming that similar disasters would not happen in Taiwan because our reactors were US-manufactured. The credibility of the environment impact assessment of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant was openly questioned by the participating researchers.

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