Sat, Jun 28, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Chen to go ahead with referendum

`FINAL DECISION' The president said citizens will be able to vote on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in a referendum to be held on or before the March election

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

More than a thousand members of the Taiwan Power Company Labor Union and their relatives express their opposition yesterday to the government's plan to phase out nuclear energy. The activists were protesting outside the Nuclear-free Homeland Conference in Taipei.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) used the country's first Nuclear-free Homeland Conference yesterday to repeat a pledge to hold a nationwide referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

In his opening remark at the anti-nuclear convention in Taipei, Chen said the future of the plant would be decided by the people through a referendum, which would be held no later than the March presidential election.

Chen said the two decades of controversy over the plant have taken too great a toll on society.

"I believe the public has been fully aware of information about the plant. It's time for people to make a final decision through a referendum," Chen said.

He said the referendum is a right of citizens and would strengthen parliamentary politics.

"This right can't be deprived or limited by any country, political party or person," Chen said.

He stressed that holding a referendum on the plant would fulfill a promise made by the DPP.

"We do so based on concerns about Taiwan's future energy policy and sustainable development rather than for the establishment of a legal basis for related laws mandating referendums," Chen said.

Chen said going nuclear-free reflects both an adjustment of values and a choice of lifestyle.

He said the country should promote energy conservation and the adoption of renewable energy in order to ensure environmental sustainability.

In addition, Chen said problems with the relocation of nuclear waste stored on Orchid Island would be solved by the end of the year.

Chen said the power plant isn't the only policy that can be put to a referendum.

Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said, "Entry into the World Health Organization and political reform can be subjects put to referendum."

Minister without Portfolio Hsu Chih-hsiung (許志雄) said that if a local government refused to hold a referendum, a private organization or institute could be designated to handle the matter.

Residents of Kungliao, where the controversial plant is being built, said at the conference that a regional referendum held in 1994 in the township suggested that 96 percent of residents are against the plant.

If free access to information on the plant and transparency of the decision-making process remain unavailable, the nationwide referendum would sacrifice Kungliao for economic development, said Wu Wen-tung (吳文通), spokesman for the Kungliao-based Yenliao Anti-Nuclear Self-Help Association.

At the conference, topics included strategies to phase out nuclear energy, the decommissioning of existing nuclear plants, the adoption of renewable energy and the disposal of nuclear waste. The experiences of the US, Japan and Sweden were also presented.

Meanwhile, blasting air horns and waving signs, more than 1,000 employees of state-run Taiwan Power Company demonstrated outside the convention, expressing their opposition to the planned phase-out of nuclear energy.

"The referendum should not be applied to the ongoing project," Taiwan Power Labor Union Director-General Shih Chao-hsien (施朝賢) said.

Shih said that terminating the project would cause at least NT$150 billion in financial losses.

Anti-nuclear activists, meanwhile, said halting construction of the plant was the first step toward making the nation nuclear-free. They urged the government to freeze the budget for the new plant and to enhance security at the three operational nuclear plants.

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