Mon, Apr 04, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Embracing a non-nuclear future

By Winston Dang 陳重信

All four of Taiwan’s nuclear power stations are included in the list of the world’s most dangerously located plants. In 2005, a World Bank survey on worldwide natural disaster risk found that Taiwan may be the most -vulnerable place on Earth to natural hazards, with 73 percent of its land and population exposed to three or more hazards and 90 percent of its population living in areas at high relative risk of death from two or more hazards.

In addition, the frequency of extreme weather events has increased over the past few years and they are becoming increasingly severe. Typhoon Morakot in 2009 and Typhoon Megi last year brought some of the strongest winds and heaviest rain that Taiwan has experienced in many decades. Taiwan is a high-risk area and that risk is likely to increase in future.

On March 11, Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture was struck by a three-in-one disaster — a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, which generated a tsunami, which in turn caused explosions at a nuclear power plant. If we add the volcanic eruptions, gales and heavy rainfall that have happened since then, it has been a six-in-one disaster. It’s a rare combination, but it has happened all the same and the government has to find a way to respond.

Could climate change and global warming lead to death and destruction on a mass scale in Taiwan?

The local economy is driven by exports; should Taiwan ever be hit by a multiple calamity including a nuclear disaster, it would set our economy back 50 years.

In light of the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan, mankind needs to rethink the concepts that underpin risk analysis in nuclear security. When assessing risk, we must take into account the worst-case scenario of a three-in-one or even a six-in-one disaster, where several kinds of disaster strike the same area at the same time, and we have to reassess risks accordingly. Following the events in Fukushima, no one in the world dares call himself an expert on nuclear safety, because the old methods of risk assessment and the old ways of considering environmental factors all have to change. Given that nobody dares claim that they know how to judge the risk of a six-in-one disaster including an earthquake and a nuclear accident, who can be convinced by talk of strict nuclear safety measures. Who believes now that man can always conquer nature?

US authorities have already incorporated climate change factors among national security concerns, but what about Taiwan? At a time when countries around the world are starting to take measures in response, the question is would Taiwan be prepared in the event of a nuclear disaster?

Following the March 11 earthquake in Japan, opinion polls in Taiwan show strong public support for the idea of a nuclear-free homeland. In fact, Article 23 of the 2002 Basic Environment Act (環境基本法) stipulates that: “The government shall establish plans to gradually achieve the goal of becoming a nuclear-free country. The government shall also strengthen nuclear safety management and control, protections against radiation and the management of radioactive materials and monitoring of environmental radiation, to safeguard the public from the dangers of radiation exposure.”

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