“Halt construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, put an end to nuclear power,” massed crowds shouted as tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Taipei City yesterday afternoon. Protests also took place in Greater Taichung, Greater Kaohsiung and Taitung City as people called for the government to phase out the use of nuclear power.
The Taipei demonstration was initiated by an alliance of over 150 civic groups that support the goal of achieving a nuclear-free homeland. The main demands of the demonstration included halting additional budget allocation for the yet-to-be-completed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮), ceasing the installation of fuel rods at the plant, retiring the nation’s three operational nuclear power plants, removing nuclear waste from Orchid Island (蘭嶼) and reviewing nuclear waste treatment solutions. Demonstrators also called for zero growth in the nation’s electricity consumption.
Most of the participants at yesterday’s march took to the streets on their own initiative as the event’s organizers did not want mobilized crowds or the interference of political parties, said Humanistic Education Foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭), one of the groups in the alliance.
In Tapei, the march, bustling with noise and excitement, was conducted in a festive and easygoing atmosphere with many young people dressed up in bright colors yellow anti-nuclear stickers plastered to their faces and clothing.
Performing artists danced to music while many parents brought their children, while a number of pet owners were seen walking dogs decked out with anti-nuclear banners.
Wearing a gas mask, a man surnamed Hsu (許) from Taoyuan County’s Jhongli (中壢) said he heard experts say it took a long time for residents to evacuate after Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster.
“I am concerned that Taiwan is too small to have enough safe places to evacuate to should a nuclear disaster occur,” he said. “Even a gas mask cannot save you if a nuclear disaster happens in Taiwan.”
At one stop on the route of the march, the organizers set up a paper money burner — traditionally used for burning paper money as offerings to deities or the deceased during religious rituals — so that people could burn fake banknotes in front of the National Treasury, mocking the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant as a “money burner.”
“This money burner represents the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, because during two decades of construction, the budget for it continues to grow, but it remains unfinished with many defects and problems,” said Lee Cho-han (李卓翰), executive director of the alliance. “Let’s all put an end to this money burner.”
In front of the Council of Agriculture building, the Taiwan Rural Front explained to demonstrators how much damage a nuclear disaster could bring to the agricultural sector.
“I traveled to [Japan’s] Fukushima Prefecture last September and spoke with farmers, many of whom are now unemployed because their farms have been contaminated and can no longer be used to grow anything,” said Hsu Chao-wei (徐肇尉), a member of the rural group.
“Even for those whose farms are still viable, it’s still very difficult for them to sell what they grow because everyone is worried that their products may be contaminated and they always have to go through strict inspections and tests before making it onto the market,” Hsu added.