Ma, Jiang are playing games with nuclear vote

By Hung Yu-chiang 洪裕強  / 

Fri, Mar 15, 2019 - Page 8

On Sunday, the eve of the eighth anniversary of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Japan — which triggered the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant — former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and former premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) organized a forum on nuclear energy.

The purpose was to call on the government to respect the result of last year’s “Go nuclear to go green” referendum, which received 5.89 million “yes” votes.

The forum’s sponsors advocate postponing the decommissioning of the nation’s three operational nuclear power plants — the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Shihmen District (石門), the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in the city’s Wanli District (萬里) and the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Pingtung County’s Ma-anshan (馬鞍山) — and completing the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the mothballed Longmen site in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮).

At the event, several intellectuals calling themselves academics said that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration was treating the referendum process “as a joke.”

However, this is the wording on Referendum No. 16: “Do you agree that subparagraph 1, Article 95 of the Electricity Act (電業法), which reads: ‘Nuclear-energy-based power-generating facilities shall wholly stop running by 2025,’ should be abolished?”

There is no mention of suspending the decommissioning process for Taiwan’s three oldest plants, nor any mention of completing construction of the Longmen plant. In other words, the “Go nuclear to go green” referendum was not a referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

As the Chinese idiom says: “Horses’ jaws don’t match cows’ heads.” Ma and Jiang’s latest intervention on nuclear power is incongruous with the question put to voters in November last year.

As for whether to implement an amendment to the act that abolishes Article 95, in accordance with the outcome of the referendum, this should be decided by whichever party is in power in 2025, not the present government.

When the time comes, the government should take into account national electricity requirements and decide whether to implement a complete or partial shutdown of nuclear power plants.

Furthermore, before the Legislative Yuan passes an amendment to the act, the executive branch must only enact policy in accordance with the law as it stands to avoid accusations of malfeasance. The government cannot exceed its authority and act arbitrarily in contravention of the law.

Additionally, the ultimate goal of the referendum is to convert the nation’s energy supply to green energy, so nuclear energy is but a means to that end. If the government implements policies that promote the development of green energy, including the provision of incentives, there might be no need to continue operating nuclear power plants.

While Ma and Jiang were in office, they did not pursue a policy of completing construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. The plant was mothballed by the Ma administration following the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster, yet now they are calling for the plant to be completed. This does not add up.

Those who support completing and starting the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should put the question to the public by proposing a referendum with the following wording: “Do you agree that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be completed and started?”

Hung Yu-chiang is an assistant professor at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Academic Research.

Translated by Edward Jones