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Tue, May 23, 2000 - Page 2 News List

MOEA promises nuclear review

ENVIRONMENT As the members of the new Cabinet took up their posts, the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant remained high on the agenda

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Facing growing pressure over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四), Minister of the Economic Affairs Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) confirmed yesterday that a review committee would be established by the end of May to decide the plant's future.

The review committee will be composed of up to 30 members, Lin said yesterday at the Legislative Yuan.

It is to be comprised of specialists from a diverse range of backgrounds he said, from within academic circles, and political figures from institutions such as the Atomic Energy Council (AEC, 原子能委員會), the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA, 環保署) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs' (MOEA) Energy Commission (能源會).

Lin said that the final report would be available by the end of September and that his conclusion would be deferred until discussion of the issue with experts is completed.

The advisors will be drawn from both pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear camps, but although they may offer their opinions, no vote will be held on the matter, Lin said.

If the project continues, according to a recent report by Taiwan Power Corp (Taipower, 台電), the cost to complete construction would total around NT$38.5 billion.

Fighting anti-nuclear activists, Taipower earlier stated that the 31.32 percent of construction completed to date had already exhausted some NT$44 billion in funds.

Halting the project will result in a financial loss of at least NT$84.6 billion, the company said.

Lin stressed, however, that committee members would reassess the total cost of the plant, including construction and maintenance costs, remedying possible negative environmental impact, managing retired equipment and treating radioactive waste.

The ongoing controversy over the plant was highlighted yesterday when new Cabinet members assumed office. When chairman of the AEC, Hsia Der-yu (夏德鈺), presented his first report to the Legislative Yuan's Sci-tech and Information Committee (科技委員會) yesterday morning, more than 30 legislators were ready armed with questions.

"If your professional training tells you that nuclear power plants are safe, will you ask DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) not to halt the project?" asked KMT legislator Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進).

Lee said that Hsia -- also a KMT member -- should not sacrifice his professional responsibility to get into bed with the DPP

Hsia holds a PhD in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, and has been an active professional in the field of nuclear energy for three decades.

Hsia said that he could convince DPP officials of the plant's safety and would communicate with anti-nuclear activists within a month to eliminate their skepticism.

As new head of the EPA, Lin Jun-yi's (林俊義) speech to administration members yesterday signalled that controversy over the plant was also high on the EPA's agenda.

Lin said that he personally disagreed with the adoption of nuclear energy, based on reports of the high incidence of cancer caused by improper radiation containment.

Lin told the media last week that he may order the plant to undergo another environmental impact assessment (EIA).

He said two censures from the Control Yuan regarding improper EIA's conducted by the AEC in the past warranted a fresh assessment.

Legislator took aim at Hsia over what they said was his failure to tackle recent nuclear incidents, including nuclear waste spills and reported cases of radiation-contaminated roads, schools and buildings in several communities.

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