Sat, May 04, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Look south for solution to nation’s energy issue

By Kimyung Keng 何景榮

The Philippines consists of 7,641 islands, more than 2,000 of which are inhabited. In Indonesia, my other home country apart from Taiwan, more than 7,000 of 17,504 islands are uninhabited. On these islands, there are no concerns about the insufficient nuclear disaster evacuation zones that Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is worried about.

It might be inappropriate to develop nuclear power in Taiwan, but exporting its technology and facilities to neighboring countries, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, is an option worth discussing.

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant on Luzon Island in the Philippines was completed more than 30 years ago, but for political reasons it has never been commissioned, as anti-nuclear advocates say that it could be used by the US military to produce nuclear weapons.

The plant’s destiny is similar to that of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City, which has never gone into operation.

Perhaps Taiwan could discuss the handling of idle nuclear facilities with its closest neighbor. On the other hand, anti-nuclear forces in the Philippines have, to a great degree, been driven by anti-US sentiment.

Perhaps the Philippines could ease these concerns by working with Taiwan to seek a feasible way to start its plant, as Taiwan’s nuclear power technology is relatively mature and it is not directly linked to the US’ popularity.

In comparison, opposition to nuclear power is weaker in Indonesia, because its territory is much more vast. Three experimental nuclear reactors have been built on Java Island and other areas.

In contrast to Taiwan’s 2025 deadline for a nuclear-free homeland, Indonesia is planning to complete four nuclear power plants by 2025 and is working in close collaboration with countries such as Australia, Russia and South Korea on nuclear power technology.

Perhaps Taiwan could disassemble unused units at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and sell them to Indonesia with a technology transfer from the Atomic Energy Council and National Tsing Hua University’s Institute of Nuclear Engineering and Science in exchange for low-polluting natural gas.

Over the past few years, the Indonesian government has attempted to create more jobs so that overseas Indonesian workers can return home. As a result, Taiwan would have to change its practice of increasing work visa quotas for Indonesians in exchange for more natural gas.

By doing so, Taiwan’s thermal power plants could continue operating, thereby reducing carbon emissions. This would not only buy time to develop sources of renewable energy, but also indirectly achieve the goal of last year’s referendum on using nuclear power to promote renewable energy, as Taiwan could go green by selling nuclear power facilities and technology to Indonesia.

The number of immigrants in Taiwan is approaching 1 million. They are also part of the country.

I have had meetings with Indonesian lawmakers and Philippine Department of Trade and Industry officials that show that, with their multilingual and cross-cultural strengths, new immigrants can contribute to their Southeast Asian roots and their new home: Taiwan.

Faced with the controversy over whether to start the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the government will hopefully live up to the human-oriented spirit of the New Southbound Policy and let new immigrants become the driving force behind the policy, taking practical action to find feasible ways to solve the energy problem.

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