Fourth, halting the plant’s construction could send prices of electricity soaring, severely impacting the economy and people’s livelihoods, resulting in a decline in GDP, driving industries overseas and raising unemployment.
Fifth, if the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant cannot be put into operation, it might be necessary to extend operating licenses of the nation’s three operational nuclear plants, which could carry serious risks because of the three plants’ aging reactors.
The fourth and fifth reasons are exemplified by Japan, which recorded a trade deficit of ￥2 trillion (US$21.1 billion) in 2011 mainly because of the large amount of natural gas it had to import to meet power shortages caused by having all 54 of its nuclear reactors out of service.
Its trade deficit nearly tripled to a record ￥6.9 trillion last year due to high fuel import costs, forcing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to revise the zero-nuclear policy decided by the previous administration in response to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear incident.
The KMT’s proposal came after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and KMT party leaders decided late last month to place the issue of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant to a referendum in August to settle the decades-long controversy over its construction.
If the proposal passes the legislature, the Referendum Act (公民投票法) stipulates that the referendum would have to be held no sooner than one month and no later than six months after gaining legislative approval.
KMT legislative caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said that the referendum could be held in December to allow enough time for the inclusion of absentee votes.
Absentee ballots are not currently sanctioned by the legal system and the Ministry of the Interior has said it would need five to six months to prepare the materials needed to carry out absentee voting after related legislation is revised or enacted.
Some KMT lawmakers objected to the proposed question.
KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) said the part asking if the public agrees that the plant “should not be operated” should be removed because it could preclude the chance of the facility being used for other purposes, for example, gas generation.
Asking if the power plant should not be operated could give the impression that the NT$230 billion (US$7.76 billion) that has already been poured into the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has been a waste, Ting said.
Ting, a vocal opponent of the power plant, said the proposal also failed to explain in detail the various faults in the design and construction of the power plant that have been identified and which have caused widespread public concern.
KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) expressed similar views, adding that the proposal did not clearly state when the construction should stop.
Ting reiterated his call for the legislature to establish an ad hoc committee composed of lawmakers across party lines to initiate a joint proposal.
Lo said she is also considering putting forward her own version of the proposal.
Responding to Ting’s concerns, Lai said the question of whether the plant should be operated had been added to the proposal to prevent another referendum calling for the project to be abandoned if the referendum to halt construction fails to pass.
The KMT headquarters said it was happy with the party caucus’ referendum question.