Mon, Jun 23, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Is the government trying to dodge nuclear issues?

LACKING POWER Some activists think the rulers have lost their resolve to turn the country into a nuclear-free homeland and is not sincere in holding a referendum

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The arrival last week of the first of two reactor-pressure vessels for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant highlighted the problems the DPP government is having in fulfilling its promise of creating a nuclear-free homeland.

Some anti-nuclear activists fear that the government, having failed to halt the construction of the plant when it came to power more than three years ago, will now dodge its pledged commitments by pressing for a non-binding referendum on the issue. Because people lack a proper understanding of nuclear power, the activists suspect, they would vote to continue building the plant.

But some people opposed to the plant believe a vote would go their way.

Former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) and his anti-nuclear campaigners yesterday ended their 38-week walking campaign to push the government to hold a national plebiscite on the future of the controversial plant by March next year, when the next presidential election will be held.

Residents of Kungliao Township, Taipei County, where the plant is located, are among those who believe that the government is only interested in holding a non-binding, unofficial referendum on the issue to provide a basis for laws legally mandating referendums.

"If free access to nuclear-related information and transparency of decision-making processes remain absent, a referendum on the future of the plant will be just a test for the government to promote referendum laws," said Wu Wen-tung (吳文通), spokesman for the Kungliao-based Yenliao Anti-Nuclear Self-Help Association.

Wu and 200 other Kungliao residents demonstrated last week against the transportation of a Japanese-made nuclear pressure vessel to the plant.

Information gathered by anti-nuclear activists in Japan, Wu said, suggested that the type of reactor, an advanced boiling-water reactor, was used only in Kashiwazaki, where several nuclear accidents have occurred.

Wu said that Taipower has for years refused to release information to people living near the plant, claiming that the plant would be operated safely.

"When the government sees no problem at all about its lack of transparency, how can we possibly expect the referendum to be fair?" Wu said.

Kungliao activists, powerless to stop the 1,007-tonne reactor vessel reaching its destination, resorted to invoking the sea goddess Matsu to seal up the plant for the sake of safety.

Wu said that the referendum should cover other related issues, such as the disposal of radioactive waste.

"If voters don't face the problems of nuclear power as a whole, the referendum will be held only for non-stakeholders to decide the fate of Kungliao residents," Wu said.

Lai Wei-chieh (賴偉傑), secretary-general of Taipei-based Green Citizen Action Alliance, said that some of the most fundamental aspects of a sound democracy were in danger. The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant was a case in point, Lai said.

An ideal referendum, Lai said, should be accompanied by a national debate on nuclear-related issues between all the stakeholders based on adequate information.

Lai said the DPP-led government was trying to shift its responsibility onto the public by holding a referendum without examining its failure to stand by its campaign promises, which had helped the party gain votes in elections.

At the first National Nuclear-free Homeland Conference, to be held on Friday, the referendum and other issues relating to the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will be discussed.

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