Thu, Dec 12, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Petition on nuclear power referendum tops threshold

Staff writer, with CNA

A statistical breakdown of the signatories of a referendum petition on activating the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District is displayed on the Central Election Commission Web site on Monday.

Graphic from the Central Election Commission Web site

A petition to hold a referendum on activating the nation’s mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has reached the legal threshold for the referendum to be held, the Central Election Commission said on Tuesday.

The commission said that it would tomorrow submit the petition to a review before making a formal announcement with details of the referendum.

The plant, which was close to completion in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) before being shelved in 2014, has become a focal point in the debate over nuclear power.

Supporters have lauded it as a remedy to issues such as poor air quality and rising electricity costs, while critics have warned of potential danger, citing the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan as an example.

In a referendum held in November last year, 59 percent of voters elected to keep nuclear power in Taiwan’s energy mix and repeal a law that would have phased out nuclear power by 2025.

In May, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) complied with the referendum results by amending the law, but reaffirmed its opposition to activating the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and its support for phasing out nuclear power.

In contrast, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has proposed using nuclear power as a supplement to renewable energy sources.

The petition by nuclear power advocate Huang Shih-hsiu (黃士修) to activate the facility and begin commercial operations has reached 307,903 valid signatures, putting it above the legal threshold, the commission said.

The Referendum Act (公民投票法) stipulates that a number equal to 1.5 percent of the voters in the most recent presidential election — approximately 282,000 people based on the turnout in 2016 — must sign a petition for a national referendum to be held.

Under amendments to the act, the next referendum could be held on Aug. 28, 2021 — a date the commission is expected to formally announce following its review.

The changes have been a subject of political controversy.

In late 2017, the Legislative Yuan, in which the DPP has the majority, pushed through legislation to relax the requirements for holding referendums, only for the party to suffer major defeats when 10 referendum questions were included alongside the nine-in-one elections on Nov. 24 last year.

In June, the government passed legislation mandating that referendum questions must be held in August, effectively separating them from national and local elections, and making it less likely that they would pass the eligibility threshold.

While the DPP has said that the changes were necessary to avoid a repeat of long lines at polling stations last year, the KMT has said that the government was creating obstacles following the string of defeats its policies suffered in the last referendums.

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