Fri, Mar 18, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Public doubt government could handle nuclear crisis

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter

More than 60 percent of people lack confidence in the government’s ability to handle a nuclear crisis like that seen in Japan, a survey showed yesterday.

The survey, conducted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), showed that 61.1 percent of respondents lacked some confidence or lacked any confidence that the authorities could handle a nuclear crisis, while 31.5 percent said they assumed that the government would perform well.

The poll also showed that 50.6 percent of respondents lacked confidence in how the government was managing the nation’s nuclear plants, against 37.2 percent who expressed confidence.

About three out of four Taiwanese said they wanted construction at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), halted and its safety measures overhauled, the poll said.

LACK OF SUPPORT

The low levels of confidence in Taiwan dovetailed with a worldwide drop in support for the nuclear industry amid the threat of a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant following a powerful earthquake and tsunami last Friday.

The poll surveyed 1,112 people of voting age and had a margin of error of 2.99 percent, 19 times out of 20.

Concern has also been reflected in the legislature in recent days, as lawmakers have grilled government officials on the safety of the nation’s nuclear power plants and the possible impact of radioactive fallout from Japan.

Atomic Energy Council officials have said that most of the radioactive dust is expected to dissipate over the Pacific Ocean because of the prevailing winds and that even in a worst-case scenario the health of people in Taiwan would not be affected.

‘THREE NOES’

On Wednesday, the agency said it was adopting a “three noes principle” — no need to panic, no need to use iodine tablets against radiation and no need to start any evacuations.

However, DPP legislators called the “principle” a “serious slip of the tongue,” adding that government agencies must take a more active role to ensure public safety.

“There are fears around the nation because the government does not appear to have basic contingency plans in place and doesn’t inform the public on what should be done [if and] when an emergency situation arises,” DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said.

Chen and other DPP lawmakers said the government has a responsibility to inform the public about protection against radiation, otherwise people would be “sitting ducks” if the radiation leak in Japan suddenly took a turn for the worse.

Agency officials said the risk from the Japanese plant is minuscule and there is no need to cause a panic.

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