The government yesterday had a surprise change of heart, declaring an initiative to put the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant to a national referendum.
After a meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials and lawmakers yesterday, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said: “The ultimate decision on this issue of major concern to people’s lives and security, and to the nation’s economic development in the future, shall be decided through a referendum.”
The decision was reached at a meeting presided over by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) at the Presidential Office on Sunday night and attended by Jiang, Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝), party officials and several KMT lawmakers.
Jiang said that the government maintains its position that construction of the plant should be completed, but it will not operate commercially unless it is safe.
However, “we would like to face public scrutiny through a referendum,” he said.
According to the plan, a referendum on halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will be initiated by the KMT caucus tabling a motion next month in the legislature, KMT caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said.
Lai said the plebiscite could be held in August as the Referendum Act (公民投票法) stipulates that a referendum must be held no sooner than one month and no later than six months after its proposal.
If the completion of the plant failed to win approval, there was the risk of huge compensation payouts for breach of contract, higher electricity costs, power shortages and even an adverse effect on economic growth, Jiang said.
Nevertheless, “we would accept the ultimate decision made by the people,” he said.
Since 1992, when the first budget for the plant cleared the legislature, NT$264 billion (US$8.9 billion) has been poured into the project, with NT$19.7 billion requested in this legislative session, which begins today, and a budget of NT$40 billion needed to complete its construction.
State-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電), the builder and operator, originally planned to apply to the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) to load fuel rods in the plant’s first reactor in February next year and to begin commercial operations in October 2015.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant incident of 2011 in Japan has re-energized Taiwan’s anti-nuclear movement, with the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant the focus of attention.
A number of flaws in the design and construction of the plant have been identified. Adding to safety concerns over nuclear power plants in Taiwan is the fact that they are situated in geologically unstable earthquake-prone areas.
Since the Referendum Act was enacted in 2004, there have been six national referendums, all held on the same day as national elections — March 30, 2004, a presidential election; January 12, 2008, a legislative election; and March 22, 2008, a presidential election.
There were two referendums on each date, but none of the proposals in the referendums passed due to what is perceived to be the high threshold for them to be successful.
That referendum act requires more than half of eligible voters to cast ballots for a poll to be valid.
Elizabeth Sun (孫又文), a spokeswoman for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, said that while it did not take sides on the matter, the government should ensure that industry would be able to enjoy stable and adequate power supplies.
TSMC would not comment on whether the issue should be resolved via referendum.
Contract chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp (聯電) said that the most important issue was ensuring sufficient power supplies.
Additional reporting by Lisa Wang
There was a net reduction last year in the number of Taipei residents and this year is expected to set a 23-year high for population decline in the city, Ministry of the Interior statistics released yesterday showed. From January to last month, 18,861 more people moved out of Taipei than moved into the capital, an increase of 7,000 from the same period last year, the data showed. That is a 7.2 percent decrease in the city’s population since the start of the year, the biggest drop in both percentage and total number among all municipalities and counties nationwide, the data showed. The data
COUNCILS CLASH: The Mainland Affairs Council said a new office in Hong Kong is to assist people with issues related to investment, study and employment in Taiwan The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday denied an accusation by the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council that its Taiwanese counterpart in the territory was “interfering with Hong Kong’s internal affairs.” The Hong Kong council leveled the accusation after Taipei’s Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council this month announced it would establish a Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office to facilitate humanitarian aid for Hong Kongers. The new office is scheduled to begin operations on Wednesday. The MAC yesterday asked the Hong Kong council to “not misinterpret” the government’s intentions. The two Taiwan-Hong Kong councils were established in 2010 to
IRRESPONSIBLE ATTITUDES? Some experts say the NHI system does not do enough to educate the public, or pay doctors to talk to patients, about healthy lifestyles While the life expectancy of Taiwanese newborns in 2018 reached 80.69 years, the number of years people spent in poor health hit a record high at 8.41 years, Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics showed on Saturday. Healthy life expectancy is calculated by a person’s life expectancy minus the time they spend in ill health, such as the loss of mobility, disabilities and chronic disease, based on medical records and calculations about the years they live with disabilities. The number of years that Taiwanese spend in poor health is increasing slowly, but steadily, rising by 0.46 years, or five-and-a-half months, between 2012
UPTICK IN NUMBERS: The Taipei deputy mayor said the city has services to assist new immigrants, but has established an office specifically to help those from Hong Kong The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office today officially opens, where it is to provide humanitarian assistance to Hong Kongers, after Beijing yesterday passed a controversial national security law for the territory. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) expressed dismay over China’s passage of the law, saying that Beijing has broken its pledge to allow Hong Kong to maintain a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years following its handover from the UK. “I feel extremely disappointed [about the law’s passage], which means China did not keep its promise to Hong Kong,” Tsai said in Taipei. Beijing’s “broken promise” also