Wed, May 03, 2000 - Page 1 News List

New bid to block nuke plant

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The constructions site of Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in the coastal township of Kungliao, northeast of Taipei. The incoming Minster of Economic Affairs Lin Hsin-yi has called for bidding on remaining construction contracts on the US$5.6 billion nuclear power plant to be suspended pending a decision on whether the project should be scrapped on environmental grounds.


Dozens of legislators from all the major political parties joined forces yesterday to propose a temporary halt to the construction of Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, and to request the incoming DPP-led government administration to review the necessity of the controversial project.

The proposal yesterday received support from over 25 legislators from the KMT, the New Party and the DPP. The proposal, which is likely to be initiated this Friday during the regular legislative plenary session, will urge the new administration to provisionally suspend the US$5.1 billion project, said KMT legislator Jao Yung-ching (趙永清), one of the 12 initial sponsors.

Both plans for construction of the plant and opposition to it date back more than a decade, during which disputes and protests between environmental and political groups and the government have raged nearly non-stop.

In the past, the DPP initiated a number of resolutions and bills in an effort to stop the project in its tracks but was unable to muster enough support to bring about anything more than brief delays.

In March 1999, Taiwan's Atomic Energy Council finally issued permits to begin construction of the plant -- five years after the Legislative Yuan had initially approved the construction budget.

But the fate of the US$5.1 billion project, about 40km east of Taipei, has been in the balance since Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) -- who pledged during his election campaign to stop all future nuclear power projects -- won the election.

Jao said it is time to re-examine the feasibility of the proposal now that the DPP, which stated an anti-nuclear-power plant stance in its party platform, has won the presidential election.

"Now that the KMT, which is supportive of the project, has lost its dominance in the administrative branch following the presidential election, and the DPP has called for scrapping the project, it is time to face reality," said Jao, elected from Taipei County where the plant is located.

Jao said the proposal will urge the new administration to study whether it is really necessary to proceed with construction, and to study possible alternatives.

"I think it is a must to temporarily stop the construction to prevent more resources from being wasted. The daily construction costs are expensive," Jao said.

Other co-sponsors of the proposal, however, pointed to a decidedly political motive behind the initiative.

"The case is an indicator because it can test whether the DPP, in its shift from an opposition party to the ruling party, can be consistent over the issue," said New Party legislator Hsieh Chi-ta (謝啟大).

But uncertainty continues, as many legislators remain undecided on the issue, supporters of the proposal admitted.

DPP legislator Lin Chung-mo (林重謨) said about 20 percent of his DPP colleagues had "softened" their anti-nuclear-power-plant stance now that the DPP was in power. The KMT's Jao, on the other hand, admitted that it was possible that some of the KMT legislators could work hand-in-hand to shut out the proposal in the legislative chamber.

Lee Wen-chung (李文忠), deputy secretary-general of the DPP legislative caucus, said the caucus' position was to call for scrapping the project, and the informal consensus reached so far within the caucus was to give the new government three to six months to re-evaluate the project.

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