Two years ago, people around the world witnessed a doomsday-like disaster on their TV sets: the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan and the huge tsunami that it caused.
This not only resulted in the death or disappearance of almost 19,000 people, it also caused a failure in the cooling system of the nuclear reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant resulting in radiation leaks, making this the third large-scale nuclear disaster in history after the Three Mile Island accident in the US and the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Two years on, the Japanese government is finding coping with the consequences of this nuclear disaster difficult and the Japanese are still living in fear.
More than 200,000 Taiwanese hit the streets two weeks ago in protest, demonstrating their opposition to the continued construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市).
The makeup of these protesters transcended political affiliation, ethnic group and social class, and saw everyone come together to fight for a safer and happier future.
Societies are constantly advancing, but they make the same mistakes and pay hard prices for these repeated errors. Japan is the only country in the world to have ever suffered an atomic bombing when bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, bringing an end to World War II.
Despite this, Japan still chose to embrace nuclear energy as part of its efforts toward economic development and in the end, Japan ended up being hurt once more.
However, Japan’s tragedy transformed into a form of positive energy that led Taiwanese, who, like their Japanese counterparts, are also plagued by regular earthquakes and typhoons, to rethink a very fundamental issue.
The issue is that we lag far behind Japan in terms of science and technology and our bureaucratic system is also much less efficient than Japan’s. When it comes to nuclear power, compared with Japan, Taiwanese experts are like undergraduate students, while Japanese experts are more like holders of doctorates.
The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project has been plagued by a number of corruption scandals, both in terms of the way work was contracted out and the way the design of the plant has gone through more than 1,000 unapproved changes.
So how can we here in Taiwan expect to manage the construction of such a plant?
Also, how can anyone guarantee that we will not see a repeat of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster here in Taiwan, when there are more than 70 live volcanoes within a 80km radius of the construction site?
We could say that the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster has offered Taiwanese a revelation and that revelation is that “common sense” is enough when fighting against nuclear power. There is no need for us to rely solely on specialized, technical knowledge.
Common sense is the best weapon for the public to use in resisting nuclear power and in responding to the abstruse, specialized terminology used by nuclear experts and government officials.
The first piece of common sense you should consider is this: If a nuclear superpower like Japan was unable to control the disaster that hit Fukushima, how can Taiwan guarantee that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will never experience an accident and how can Taiwan guarantee that the effects of a disaster will not spread further to other areas if one does occur?