Thu, Apr 24, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Nuclear safety plan is in question

By Tu Wen-ling 杜文苓

After the Sunflower movement protesters left the legislative chamber, former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) announced that he was going on a hunger strike. Lin said the government is using devious means to override public opinion and called on the public to take action to force the authorities to halt construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City.

Lin started his hunger strike on Tuesday, drawing the public’s focus again to the abolition of nuclear power, which is another issue that has a direct influence on the nation’s continued existence.

The cross-strait service trade agreement and nuclear power issues are reflections of an authoritarian government’s shallow understanding of the values of the public, while it continues to deny wider public participation by inviting experts to closed-door meetings to discuss issues. The government keeps repeating that it is governing in accordance with the law, but in addition to not facilitating a solution, its approach is endangering the nation.

Using nuclear power as an example, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is issuing heartfelt guarantees that it will meet the very highest security standards. Speaking to lawmakers during a question-and-answer session in the legislature, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that the government has established measures and that he felt “very confident that we will be able to avoid a repetition of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in Taiwan.”

While admitting that Taiwan is very likely to suffer composite disasters consisting of typhoons, earthquakes and even a nuclear disaster, Jiang insisted that the government is prepared, and that if disaster struck, it would evacuate the residents of Taipei and New Taipei City to central and southern Taiwan, adding that the military bases and gymnasiums in these areas can hold 1 million people.

At first glance, it would seem as if Jiang has a strategy for responding to a composite disaster, but on closer inspection, it is only a superficial solution of providing temporary homes for disaster victims. Other than stuffing people into a few houses, the government does not have other measures to deal with post-disaster problems, such as environmental cleanup and restoration, damaged farmland, social loss and psychological trauma — issues that continue to besiege Fukushima residents three years after the disaster.

Jiang talks about these issues — which could spell the end of Taiwan — with the same ease and simplicity as Ma talks about deer antler velvet.

Disaster prevention planning does not simply involve evacuation routes and housing; it also involves public disaster prevention awareness, drills, local government preparedness, execution, active cross-departmental coordination and cooperation across a network of social organizations. In other words, administrative preparation for disaster prevention planning does not only consist of high-tech experts writing reports and bureaucrats discussing the plans, it requires the participation of the affected people from every sector of society giving thorough consideration to every single aspect of the disaster prevention arrangements.

Perhaps the public should challenge all the candidates in the year-end seven-in-one elections by asking them some questions. What will they do if a composite disaster were to strike their area (which the premier has said is very likely)? How will they prepare for such a disaster or carry out post-disaster reconstruction? Will the government leaders of non-affected areas be willing to accept refugees from the disaster areas? And how are they going to work with the central government in carrying out its plans and arrangements?

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