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Tue, Oct 24, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Most ministers favor scrapping nuclear plant

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

At a Cabinet meeting yesterday, most of the ministers in attendance favored halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四), but a final decision on whether to do so was not made.

Chen Po-chih (陳博志), chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD), said during the discussion that cessation of the project would not harm Taiwan's economic development. He urged the premier, however, to be cautious about the timing of any announcement on the project, which could have a negative impact on the stock market.

Other agencies, including the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Environmental Protection Administration, echoed the CEPD's view, arguing that alternative projects are feasible and places for dumping nuclear waste are difficult to find.

Chairman of the Atomic Energy Council Hsia Der-yu (夏德鈺), however disagreed with the CEPD's proposal, saying that Taiwan had no problems with handling nuclear waste. Hsia added that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant was safe and that contingency measures had been included in the event of natural disaster.

Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), Cabinet secretary-general, said at a press conference after the meeting that a decision would be made before the end of the year.

"The premier will fully review the project's political, social and economic impact before a final decision is made. The Cabinet's decision will nevertheless be made no later than the end of this year," Chiou said.

He added that a public hearing would not necessarily be held to debate the controversial issue.

Chiou said that the premier would look carefully into three specific aspects of the issue. "First, the nuclear safety and the handling of nuclear waste. Second, feasibility of alternative projects, and third, whether it is illegal [to scrap the plant]," Chiou said, refusing to give a definite answer as to whether the Cabinet was in favor of halting the plant.

DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has previously said that the premier, as a DPP member, is unlikely to decide to continue the plant's construction because it violates the party's platform.

When asked whether it were possible for the Cabinet to continue construction of the plant and shut down the first and second plants -- as opposition legislators from the KMT and New Party have suggested -- Chiou replied that "the possibility is very unlikely."

"Even if the first and second plants are scrapped, there will still be nuclear waste. Besides, it is more expensive to shut down the two plants than to leave them there. The suggestion won't work," Chiou said.

Chiou added that the Cabinet, so far, has not been pressured by any US interests and, in his view, "the US is not likely to meddle since the rights of GE, the plant's contractor, have been guaranteed by a legally binding contract."

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