The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) intends to hold a referendum about halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市). The KMT proposed the referendum on the assumption that the high threshold set by the Referendum Act (公投法) would ensure that the proposal would not be passed. It thought that such an outcome would be a big setback for the Democratic Progressive Party, while allowing the KMT to attain its aims of continuing construction of the power plant and adding to the plant’s budget.
However, contrary to the KMT’s expectations, its referendum plan has inspired entertainers, cultural figures and mothers who are concerned about their children’s future to stand up one after another and declare their opposition to nuclear power. This has pushed many members of the public who were originally politically neutral into the ranks of the anti-nuclear forces, while the KMT is coming to be seen as a “pro-nuclear, conservative, regressive party.”
The US, Japan and Russia, which are all highly advanced in the field of nuclear power technology, have all experienced serious nuclear disasters. When people compare those countries to Taiwan, with its patched-together Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and questionable oversight and control, they are not likely to have much faith in the government’s repeated assurances that the plant will be safe. People are also worried about the problem of nuclear waste, which is piling up day after day with no solution in sight.
Public opinion polls indicate that 74 percent of the people in Taiwan are in favor of stopping construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. The results have prompted the KMT mayors of two major cities to declare their opposition to nuclear power, and their dissenting voices have thrown the ruling party off balance and dealt it a heavy blow.
Although the government has repeatedly stated its support for making Taiwan a nuclear-free homeland, it is trying to muddy the waters by employing “the rhetoric of reaction” and raising fears about power shortages. If the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is completed and starts commercial operation, the goal of a nuclear-free homeland will be set back by 30 years, and may never be achieved.
Given that the two main parties are in agreement on the idea of a nuclear-free homeland, they should cooperate. They could propose some provisional alternative plans, work out how much they would cost, discuss them rationally and overcome difficulties so that Taiwan’s nuclear power plants can be closed down.
Taiwan would do well to learn from Denmark’s development of wind energy. The global oil crisis of 1973 prompted Danish engineers like Henrik Stiesdal to start researching and developing wind energy as an alternative to oil. They designed high-efficiency wind turbines and kept making improvements, thus laying the technical foundations for the wind energy industry.
Denmark’s political parties are in agreement about developing “green” alternative sources of energy. They work together to promote green energy policies, which are formulated in a transparent manner, and the decisionmaking process is open to public participation. Choices about where to locate wind turbines are subject to the scrutiny, approval and long-term supervision of local communities.