Sat, Aug 12, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Less hot air, cooler heads needed

Taiwan has been wilting under a heat wave over the past two weeks, exacerbated by electricity supply shortages caused by generator problems and a toppled transmission tower.

The last thing anyone needs is more hot air from posturing politicians looking to score points. Cooler heads and a willingness to acknowledge that long-term infrastructure and lifestyle changes will be required are what is needed.

Thursday saw the New Party vowing to collect signatures for a referendum on whether the public is willing to bear the cost of mothballing the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, with party spokesman Wang Ping-chung (王炳忠) vowing to track down People Rule Foundation founder Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), a longtime anti-nuclear activist and critic of the plant, and ask him to sign a check for NT$283.8 billion (US$9.36 billion), the estimated cost of the plant’s construction.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) was demanding a guarantee from Premier Lin Chuan (林全) that there would be no power shortages after new power plants go online in two years, after the premier said the nation would have to “tough it out for the next two years” while waiting for the plants to start operations.

Then there was a media scrum yesterday over whether President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had said she would consider using nuclear power if Taiwan faced a severe energy shortage, as a leading business executive claimed.

Only heat-induced amnesia can explain the inability of so many people to remember that opinion polls over the past decade found more than half the nation opposed nuclear power and finishing the fourth plant, with residents of New Taipei City, which houses two of the operating plants and the site of the fourth, even more strongly opposed.

They also forget that previous attempts to organize a referendum have gone nowhere, even when it was the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government promising to conduct one.

Then-premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) in March 2013 said that “if the government has done everything to ensure the safety of nuclear energy, and the people still have doubts and would rather subject Taiwan to a monumental investment loss, surging power prices and the possibility of electricity rationing, then the government will courageously face the challenge of a referendum and respect its outcome.”

By the middle of the following month, he said a referendum could not be held until the fourth plant’s operational safety could be guaranteed.

A year later, then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and KMT lawmakers agreed to seal off the fourth plant’s first reactor and halt construction of the second reactor because of public opposition to the plant.

Those who hold out nuclear power as the answer to the nation’s woes ignore the long-standing problem of nuclear waste.

The nation already has too much of it and nowhere to store it permanently. We cannot continue using nuclear fuel rods if there is no place to store them afterwards. No one wants their backyard to replace the “temporary” repository on Orchid Island — especially residents of that island.

A temporary fix for this summer will not help. Hot weather is going to become the norm, because climate change is real. Producing ever more electricity to provide airconditioning is not the only answer.

For too long, the government, society, businesses and individuals have allowed themselves to be sidetracked by Taiwan Power Co’s — and previous KMT administrations’ — obsession with nuclear power and reluctance to embrace alternative sources of energy.

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