Sat, Feb 10, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Earthquake a reminder of need to be nuclear-free

By Martin Oei 黃世澤

The magnitude 6.0 earthquake that struck Hualien on Tuesday caused several buildings to collapse. While this highlights problems with the nation’s building codes, it also shows the need to continue the policy of making Taiwan a nuclear-free homeland and that national security must not be ignored just to please a few businesspeople.

During the March 11, 2011, earthquake in Japan, I was in Tokyo on business and the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster made me a person of interest for the British National Health Service.

BUILDING SAFETY

It is generally recognized that building safety in Japan is far more advanced than that in Taiwan, so why did the 2011 earthquake cause such great damage?

Aside from the tsunami that engulfed parts of Japan’s northeast coast, a bigger problem was that the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station’s cooling system had stopped operating because of a power outage.

The result was a disaster that was comparable to the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.

Given Taiwan’s building standards, if an earthquake were to occur near a nuclear power plant, would those Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) politicians who insist on continuing to use nuclear power be able to guarantee that history would not repeat itself?

France also has many nuclear power stations, but Europeans in general trust that they work because of the oversight that the French government has bestowed on its nuclear authority and its transparent operations.

France is a nation with a revolutionary tradition whose citizens will take to the streets in demonstrations that at times have turned violent, and they are monitoring all government institutions and facilities, including nuclear power plants, as if they were thieves.

Taiwan has not even been able to deal properly with transitional justice and the lingering cases and documents from the KMT’s previous authoritarian rule.

If there is another government transition, who would bet their money that nuclear power oversight would become as transparent as it is in France?

Not even the Democratic Progressive Party guarantees full transparency, so it would be surprising if there were no problems related to nuclear power under a government led by the KMT — a party that cannot even be transparent when it comes to its party assets.

ALTERNATIVE SOURCES

To avoid a nuclear disaster similar to the one at Fukushima, Taiwan needs to abandon nuclear power altogether and to emulate Germany’s extensive use of renewable energy sources so as to strike a balance between maintaining stable energy supply and national security.

Regardless of who runs Taiwan, the conditions for relying on nuclear power cannot be met until building safety problems have been resolved.

The Soviet Union had kept its use of nuclear power under wraps, and it was only when European countries detected high radiation levels not knowing where they came from that the Chernobyl accident was revealed.

Hong Kong’s greatest danger lies in all the nuclear power plants controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. If a problem occurs in any of those plants close to the territory, no one knows if Hong Kong would remain safe.

A country that wants to use nuclear power should first ask itself how much discipline its people possess.

Martin Oei is a political commentator based in Germany.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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