President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended the proposed referendum on the controversial construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮), in response to business groups’ concerns about the possibility of electricity price rises if construction of the plant is halted.
Whether the construction of the power plant should be ceased and whether the nation should depend on nuclear power are issues at national security level, and a referendum is the way to help the public reach a consensus and make a final decision on the issues, he said.
“We will make all the information open and transparent, so that people can understand the issue and make an informed choice. Nuclear power is an economic policy, but also a choice of core values for some people. That’s why I fully support the premier’s referendum proposal,” he said, while attending a spring gathering of industrial and business groups in Taipei.
Speaking at the gathering, Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association chairman Arthur Chiao (焦佑鈞) expressed concern about an increase in electricity prices if construction of the power plant was halted.
He suggested that the government adopt the same electricity fee adjustment for both industrial and household users, so that the public can come to understand the consequences of halting the power plant’s construction and cast their votes in a referendum accordingly.
Chiao’s comments reflected worries from industry that electricity prices could soar without the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs has also warned that electricity prices could increase by 40 percent if the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is prevented from becoming operational, while the first and second nuclear power plants are retired.
Ma said the nuclear power issue has been bothering the nation for decades and he expected that a national referendum would solve the longstanding problem, calling for the people to understand all the realities of the issue before making their decisions.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said a nuclear-free homeland remained the government’s ultimate goal and letting the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant begin commercial operations while ensuring it is safe would keep the electricity price stable.
He proposed a national referendum to determine whether construction of the power plant should be completed, because society is divided on the issue, while assuring that the government would not allow a nuclear power disaster like the one in Japan to happen in Taiwan.
“We will rather sacrifice a nuclear power plant that is worth millions of dollars than put people’s lives under threat,” Jiang said.
He added that he was willing to sit down with anti-nuclear groups after their planned rally on Saturday.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan