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Tue, May 09, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Wang stands firm on nuke plant

CONTROVERSIAL PROJECT Against the stance of the incoming administration, the outgoing economics minister refused to deviate from present plans to build the facility

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Reacting yesterday to accusations by lawmakers that a failure to halt construction work on the fourth nuclear power plant would be "disrespectful" to the anti-nuclear energy policy of the incoming government, Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Chih-kang (王志剛) hit back by saying such work was merely carrying out the terms of the budget passed by the legislature itself.

The controversial project again became the center of a political storm yesterday, with Wang defending the policy favored by the outgoing KMT administration and anti-nuclear energy lawmakers attacking what they called "a lack of new thinking" over the issue.

"Have you really had some new thinking over the issue? Why is it really a `must' to build the plant?" said KMT legislator Jao Yung-ching (趙永清).

Jao's district is in Taipei County, where the US$5.6 billion project is located.

Defending the current pro-nuclear policy, Wang said he had met with incoming economics minister Lin Hsin-yi (林信義), explaining his views on the issue to his successor -- who recently proposed to halt the construction temporarily while the project is reassessed.

"We are unable to halt the construction as there is no legal basis for such a move," he said.

"What the incumbent executive branch has to do is to carry out the plan as scheduled, according to the resolutions passed by the Legislative Yuan," he added.

Not everyone agreed with Wang.

DPP legislator Lai Ching-te (賴清德) urged the current administration to halt the construction project temporarily to allow an ad-hoc committee, to be established by the new administration under the DPP after May 20, to start a four-month reassessment.

But the political appointee within the KMT-dominated government took the opportunity to defend the policy.

"The project has triggered controversy over the past 20 years, and has exacted high social costs. Now that about 30 percent of construction is completed -- and the feasibility of some alternative energy resources is low -- I would advocate continuing the construction project," he said.

Any permanent halt to the project could jeopardize Taiwan's credibility in the international community, he added.

"In such an important government procurement case, Taiwan's unilateral repudiation of the contracts with related international companies may trigger commercial disputes, affecting Taiwan's credibility negatively," he said.

Plans for the construction of the plant and opposition to it date back to 1980 when the Taiwan Power Company formally presented the project for a fourth nuclear plant.

But disputes and protests between environmental and political groups and the government have raged nearly non-stop since then. It was in 1994 that the Legislative Yuan passed a special budget package for the long-delayed project.

The fate of the project in Kungliao township, Taipei County, however, has hung in the balance since Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) from the DPP -- who pledged during his election campaign to stop all future nuclear power projects -- won the presidential election.

But Wang claimed that he would remain a firm supporter of the project even after leaving office. "Because the project is conducive to our economic development as well as the long-term stability of the country," he added.

But the KMT's Jao vehemently disagreed with Wang.

"He should not have said these statements in such a confident manner. What if the ad-hoc committee under the new government concludes that there are feasible substitutes available in a timely manner?" Jao said.

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