The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators yesterday said a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) proposal to amend the Nuclear Reactor Facilities Control Act (核子反應器設施管制法) to require that a local referendum be held for residents living in the 50km “escape zone” around a nuclear power facility was “inappropriate.”
“Before fuel rods are placed in a nuclear power plant’s reactors, there should be a local referendum for people to decide whether they want such power plants to operate,” DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said, adding that she had doubts about the safety of the unfinished Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, which has had more than 1,500 alterations made to its design so far.
As the legislature’s education committee reviewed DPP Legislator Chen Chieh-ju’s (陳節如) proposal yesterday, AEC Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) said nuclear policy should be treated as a national issue and should not be brought down to a local level.
“Other countries with nuclear power plants do not have such regulations in place and the countries which have held such referendums did not use this type of functional law as a legal basis for them,” Tsai said.
Responding to lawmakers’ questions about why current regulations require that a local referendum be held prior to the establishment of low-level radioactive waste disposal sites, but not for nuclear power plants, Tsai said a plant is a public facility for providing electricity that affects the general public, compared with a disposal site, which is a passive facility that mainly affects the surrounding area.
KMT Legislator Chen Shu-hui (陳淑慧) said the Constitution stipulates that national energy policies be devised by the central government, so holding a local referendum to decide whether a nuclear power plant is made operational may be a constitutional violation.
During the review process, Tsai told legislators that he “could not predict whether the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant would be safe in the future, but that it currently has many flaws and problems that need to be improved,” adding that the plant was “poorly conceived and a very difficult project.”
When asked whether the plan to remove radioactive waste from Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) by 2016 would be successful, Tsai said it would be difficult for Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) to meet that target.
Taipower chairman Hwang Jung-chiou (黃重球) said “it is hardly possible” and that the new goal is to remove the nuclear waste by 2021, Tsai said.