Two years after the nuclear accident, five former plant workers are dead and of 38,000 people tested since April last year in Japan, 43 percent have been found to have thyroid problems.
This is quite unprecedented and truly tragic.
The climate and geography of Fukushima and parts of Taiwan are very similar, and both nations have nuclear power plants located close to their capital cities, their political and economic centers. According to research by the respected magazine Nature, two of the world’s three most at-risk nuclear plants are in Taiwan.
The other is the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, widely known as Kanupp-1, in Pakistan.
The Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in Shihmen District (石門) and the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District (萬里) — both in New Taipei City — are both within 30km of the Taipei metropolis and its 5 million residents.
The most at-risk plant in the world, Kanupp-1, has a population of more than 8 million people nearby.
However, the two Taiwanese plants have a combined capacity 23 times that of the Kanupp-1 plant, and store more than 10,000 sets of spent fuel rods in storage pools already close to capacity, making northern Taiwan the most vulnerable place in the world to a nuclear disaster.
In addition, public confidence in the Ministry of Economic Affairs or in Taipower is hardly at an all-time high, so it is no wonder that people are worried.
The majority of the public support a nuclear-free homeland, and millions of mothers have taken to the streets to call for a safe place for the next generation.
The government should take heed and announce an immediate halt to the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant instead of continuing to be slave to nuclear power.
As regards to how to find a replacement energy source, or how to continue nurturing economic growth, the government is responsible for finding new ways to move the nation forward.
Now that ordinary men and women have stood up to make themselves heard, the message has gone out to the governing and opposition parties: From this day on, major policy decisions need to take into account the will of the public and can no longer be made behind closed doors.
This is the single most important change that the mass movement has brought about.
Lu I-ming is a former publisher and president of Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News, and previously served as a member of a watchdog monitoring Taipower.
Translated by Paul Cooper