Fri, Mar 28, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Protesters invoke gloomy specter of Three Mile Island

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Anti-nuclear activists wearing black robes stage a demonstration in front of the Legislative Yuan yesterday to demand an end to the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. The characters on their robes say: ``Nuclear early death.''

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES N

Wearing black hoods and cloaks and looking like specters of death anti-nuclear activists gathered in front of the Legislative Yuan yesterday to urge the government to halt the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Kaungliao, Taipei County.

Sitting in front of the legislature and shouting "Against nuclear power. Save Taiwan," demonstrators said their black attire was symbolic of the lack of transparency surrounding the nuclear project.

Significantly, the protest took place on the eve of the 24th anniversary of the infamous Three Mile Island meltdown in the US.

On March 28, 1979, a cooling system malfunction at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, led to a partial meltdown of one of the reactor cores and caused the release of nearly 4 million liters of radioactive coolant into the waters in the vicinity of the reactor.

A radiation-leak alert was broadcast, prompting the evacuation of about 140,000 people from neighboring areas. A US$1 billion cleanup program followed.

Activists here yesterday said that Taiwan should avoid the mistakes that led to the Three Mile Island disaster.

"We hope the construction of the controversial plant can be halted immediately in order not to lead to any disastrous nuclear accident," said Cheng Hsien-yu (鄭先祐), the convener of the Association for Promoting Public Voting on Nuke 4 (核四公投促進會).

Cheng said that it was ironic to continue the construction of the plant and at the same time promote the idea of turning Taiwan into nuclear-free homeland.

Before the President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) took office in 2000, the DPP's opposition to nuclear power was clearly listed in its political platform, Cheng said.

At that time, most DPP legislators and politicians, including Chen, worked with environmental groups to expose the former KMT government's intention to conceal nuclear-related scandals.

For example, on May 28, 1993 Chen said that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project was the most serious scandal ever in Taiwan. And in June, 1993, Chen vowed to unite DPP legislators to freeze the project's budget.

Yesterday, activists listed two pages of news stories detailing past scandals pertaining to plant and urged the government to carry out a comprehensive investigation into those scandals.

"Now it's DPP's responsibility to look into those scandals, further eliminating the public's doubt," Cheng said.

Cheng urged the Cabinet to order the Ministry of Justice to investigate all past scandals pertaining to the plant's construction.

In addition, DPP lawmaker Eugene Jao (趙永清) said that contracts signed by the state-run Taiwan Power Co and overseas contractors should be deciphered and released to the public.

"Who can explain to us why the budget for the plant has been increased from NT$100 billion in the early 1990s to NT$208.2 billion, now?" Jao asked.

Jao demanded thorough checkup for the three operating nuclear plants, saying that there have already been more than 90 accidents.

Yang Chao-yueh (楊肇岳), chairman of Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, said that the future of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be decided by a referendum.

DPP legislative caucus leader Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), who met with anti-nuclear activists later, said that people do have the right to carry out a referendum under the framework of the Constitution.

"The DPP will form a task force to deal with related problems, including environmental disasters caused by the construction," Chen said.

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