Fri, Jun 14, 2013 - Page 8 News List

‘Birdcage referendum’ is a farce

By Chan Shun-kuei 詹順貴

In February, it was discovered that radioactive waste from six underground storage tanks had been leaking.

This casts serious doubts over whether the technology for storing nuclear waste is safe, widespread and available for commercial technology transfer.

To make matters worse, what these officials and professors strenuously avoid mentioning is that Taiwan does not possess this kind of processing technology.

It does not even have the technology needed for decommissioning nuclear generators.

The spent fuel rods from the nation’s three existing atomic power stations are still being kept in overcrowded cooling pools.

Considering this, is Taiwan really in a position to operate another nuclear power station so that it too can churn out low-level and high-level radioactive waste for 40 or 50 years?

The nation’s spare electricity generation capacity has been on the high side for a long time, and a number of big thermal power stations that have already been approved are scheduled to start generating electricity in the next 10 to 15 years.

Halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, which has been plagued by constant problems and whose safety can by no means be assured, is surely the best risk-management option if the government is truly concerned about public interest.

The Ma adminstration is proposing a referendum about stopping construction, but at the same time it keeps getting government ministers and Taipower executives to convince the public with statements about the plant being safe and suggesting that stopping construction would hinder Taiwan’s economic development and affect the price of electricity. Now, Ma himself has joined the chorus.

These statements are blatantly inconsistent with the referendum proposal, so what is the Ma administration trying to achieve?

Does it want to use the media to persuade people not to vote in the referendum, thus ensuring that the threshold for voter participation is not reached and the birdcage referendum proposal to stop construction is automatically rejected?

This kind of manipulation might seem clever, but it is also thoroughly contemptible.

Chan Shun-kuei is a lawyer and chairman of the Taiwan Bar Association’s environmental law committee.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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