Saying he has taken public concerns over the safety of the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant to heart, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday promised his administration would listen to and communicate with people from all sectors of society before making a decision on the issue.
“Civic groups, women’s groups and the Alliance for Mothers to Oversee Nuclear Power Plants have all voiced their concern. We all live on the same island and face the same challenges. We will be very cautious in establishing public facilities,” Ma told Cabinet members.
In an apparent response to a call made by Fubon Cultural and Educational Foundation board director Irene Chen (陳藹玲) that the government should seek to learn more about the nuclear energy beyond official briefings, Ma said his administration “will definitely take into account all their opinions.”
Since 1992, when the first budget for the construction of the Forth Nuclear Power Plant cleared the legislature, the facility has been continuously under construction, regardless of which political party was in power, Ma said.
“Now we need to reflect on what to do [with the plant], how other countries in a similar situation dealt with the issue, what the status of the nation’s energy demand would be in the future and whether we can afford higher energy prices if we changed our energy sources. All these are questions that we need to think over,” he said.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that since the Cabinet was just formed a week ago, it would not make a decision on the issue now, but that it would be a priority for discussion in the new legislative session, he added.
“I hope it would be a joint decision by everyone following a public discourse, in which everyone exchanges in-depth views on the issue instead of digging in with their pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear stance,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) demanded that Ma suspend the plant’s construction and its additional budget allocation immediately, as well as pass a bill promoting a nuclear-free homeland.
Speaking in Gongliao (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), where the power plant is located, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said continuation of the construction would be “a wrong policy of immeasurable cost for Taiwanese society” and that the DPP would “fearlessly engage in the anti-nuclear movement.”
Su, more than 100 staffers from DPP headquarters and dozens of local anti-nuclear activists gathered in Gongliao yesterday for a traditional “spring banquet,” as well as to highlight their commitment to make Taiwan a nuclear-free country.
Four of the 14 most dangerous nuclear reactors in the high-hazard areas of earthquake-prone regions are in Taiwan, Su said, citing a Wall Street Journal report, which was published on March 19, 2011, after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant incident in Japan.
“It’s pretty obvious that [construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant] is not a path we should keeping on taking. Ma should not be ambiguous on his position and should act now,” he said.
Su said that promoting a nuclear-free homeland has always been one of the DPP’s core values since its founding in 1986, when the anti-nuclear movement was just beginning and could scare away voters in elections.
Former premier Yu Shyi-kun said Ma and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had been “irresponsible and immoral” with their accusations that Su and former DPP chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) supported the construction and allocation of additional budget for the power plant, which has cost more than NT$300 billion (US$10.1 billion), when they served as premier and vice premier respectively.
The former DPP administration did not want to allocate funding for the project at the time, but was forced to do so because the KMT held a majority in the legislature, he said.