Tue, Apr 12, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Groups call for nuclear referendum

THE PEOPLE DECIDE:Environmental activists said Taiwan could follow the example of Austria, which abandoned a nuclear plant after a national referendum

By Rich Chang  /  Staff Reporter, with CNA

Environmental groups on Sunday called for a referendum on the nation’s nuclear power plants as a nuclear crisis in Japan continues.

At a meeting of environmental non-governmental organizations at Guandu Nature Park (關渡自然公園), participants said a national referendum would allow citizens to decide whether they want to keep Taiwan’s nuclear power plants or not.

“Any radiation fallout absorbed by human bodies can cause cytopathic effects and other potential threats to human health,” Gloria Hsu (徐光蓉), a member of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, said at the annual meeting.

In November 1978, the Austrian government abandoned a newly built nuclear power station after 51 percent of the electorate voted against nuclear power in a referendum, the union’s founding chairman Shih Hsin-min (施信民) said, adding that Taiwan can follow in Austria’s footsteps.

By law, anti--nuclear activists can seek to collect signatures to propose a referendum. About 86,600 signatures, or the equivalent of 0.5 percent of all registered voters in the last presidential election, would be required to validate a proposal, the Referendum Act (公民投票法) stipulates.

After that, the referendum organizers must collect another 866,000 signatures, or 5 percent of all voters, for a referendum to be put on the ballot.

Taiwan currently operates three nuclear power plants, with two located in New Taipei City (新北市) and one in Pingtung County. A fourth nuclear power plant is under construction in Gongliao District (貢寮), also in New Taipei City. It is scheduled to begin commercial operations at the end of next year.

The issue of whether to abolish nuclear power came to the forefront in Taiwan after March 11, when a powerful earthquake struck Japan and unleashed a tsunami that damaged the country’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, causing radiation to leak.

Thousands of demonstrators, including former premiers Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), took to the street last month calling on the government to end its reliance on nuclear power.

Although the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is for the most part in favor of retaining the nuclear option, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has said it would support plans for a referendum and seek to halt construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

Meanwhile, in her second TV advertisement for her presidential bid, the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) focused on her plans for a nuclear-free homeland.

“If we start to work hard now, our children’s future can be free of fear. Having a non-nuclear homeland requires some effort and needs some time, but with persistence and determination, our children can see that dream come true. Persistence — for our next generation,” Tsai says in the 30-second ad, which started running on cable news channels yesterday.

Tsai has said that if she were elected president next year, she would seek to end operations at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant as part of her plan to phase out nuclear energy by 2025.

She also proposed decommissioning the three operational nuclear power plants between 2019 and 2025.

Tsai said the shutdowns would be subject to conditions, including whether Taiwan could adequately replace the electricity produced by the plants with other power sources, such as by building renewable energy capacity and achieving better efficiency at coal-fired power plants.

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