President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended the government’s stance on the nation’s nuclear power program amid disputes over the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), and said that the government will ensure nuclear safety before allowing commercial operation of the plant.
“We can reduce nuclear power gradually, but it will be hard to achieve this goal all in a single step,” Ma said at a meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members in Keelung.
Ma, who is also KMT chairman, said he has instructed the Executive Yuan to explain the consequences and advantages if the construction of the power plant was halted and promised that the government will respect any decision made by the public on the issue.
Confronted with growing opposition to the government’s plan to complete construction of the plant and concerns over nuclear safety, Ma’s administration announced earlier this month that the issue of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant’s construction would be settled by a national referendum.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said on Friday that he would resign if the government loses the vote and construction of the plant is halted, adding that if construction is halted it could lead to bankruptcy for state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) as well as cause other problems such as power shortages.
The referendum proposal from the government attracted criticism from the Democratic Progressive Party and anti-nuclear groups, as they said the move was designed to weaken the anti-nuclear movement, given the high threshold required for a referendum to pass.
A referendum would require mobilizing more than 9.15 million people, or half the eligible voters, to vote and would need to achieve 4.57 million “yes” votes to have the plant’s construction halted.
Ma declined to discuss the referendum yesterday, but promised that the government will not deceive the people nor generate public fear in an attempt to continue the construction.
“We will let the people make the final decision [on the construction of the power plant], he said, while stressing that most of the plant’s construction has been completed and that the government will invite foreign experts on nuclear power to inspect the safety of the plant before allowing its commercial operation.
In calling for KMT members’ support for government policies, Ma also said that the Executive Yuan will communicate with the public regarding pension reform, as the government’s pension reform proposal will be sent to the legislature next month for approval.