Thu, Jan 01, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Taipower's nuclear budget frozen

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Anti-nuclear groups yesterday urged the Legislative Yuan to review part of the state-run Taiwan Power Company's (Taipower) budget proposal, which asked for NT$3.92 billion this year to continue the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant construction project.

Being responsive to demonstrators, the Legislative Yuan's Economics and Energy Committee yesterday decided to freeze the allocation, which was earmarked for Taipower to maintain two reactors at the nuclear plant in the future.

Yesterday morning, dozens of anti-nuclear activists and residents from Kungliao township, Taipei County, where the controversial plant is situated, carried out a sit-in demonstration in front of the Legislative Yuan.

"The ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP], should recall carefully how it opposed the project in the 1990s," said Wu Wen-tung (吳文通), spokesman for the Kungliao-based Yenliao Anti-Nuclear Self-Help Association.

The estimated cost of completing construction of the plant is NT$169.7 billion. In 1994, the Legislative Yuan passed an eight-year proposal by Taipower, which received NT$112.5 billion for construction purposes. At that time, most DPP lawmakers opposed the budget allocation.

Wu stressed that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) promised to hold a referendum on the plant's future. Before the referendum is held, the government should halt the project and stop allocating related budgets, Wu said.

Activists of other environmental groups, including the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union and the Homemakers' Union and Foundation, joined the sit-in.

Activists said that giving taxpayer's money to Taipower was contradictory to the government's goal of turning Taiwan into a nuclear-free homeland.

Meanwhile, at a budget review meeting, DPP Legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清) said that allocating more money for the project would incur a financial loss.

"Before Taipower ensures nuclear safety and a referendum [on the plant's future] is held, I suggest that not a cent more should be allocated for the project," Jao said.

The committee accepted Jao's suggestion, which was supported by some lawmakers. Depending on the result of further negotiations between the parties in March at a legislative assembly meeting, Taipower might this year not receive any money for the project.

According to Yang Jiao-yen (楊嬌豔), a legislative assistant to Jao, Taipower will propose an additional budget of NT$52.3 billion for the plant in the next parliamentary session, but might face similar opposition.

In September, Taipower officials reported to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which supervises state-run companies, saying that the additional NT$52.3 billion is necessary for completing construction of the plant.

According to Taipower, in an ideal situation, the plant will begin operating commercially in July 2006.

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