Sun, Apr 07, 2013 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Hau on why opinion polls better than a referendum

Following his proposal to let the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District be decided by a public opinion poll, instead of through a national referendum, as suggested by President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, in a recent interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (the sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Tzou Jiing-wen, called on the government to put a halt to the power plant’s construction should a majority of the public continue to lean toward suspending the project

According to the poll, 66 percent of respondents said they would vote in favor of suspending the porject, compared with 18 percent who support continued construction.

Among respondents who said they would participate in the referendum, as many as 78 percent said they would vote in support of suspending the construction on the power plant, while 17 percent said they oppose the idea.

The city will continue carrying out such polls on a monthly basis and release their results to the public until the plebiscite is held.

In the meantime, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) recently said that he would instruct the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission to conduct nationwide surveys on the issue, and I want to invite New Taipei City (新北市), Keelung City and Yilan County to also carry out similar polls to gain a thorough grasp of their residents’ opinions on the matter.

LT: What do you know about nuclear energy and what are your gravest concerns about it?

Hau: The disposal of nuclear waste has long been an insurmountable conundrum. After efforts to find sufficient storage sites for low-level nuclear waste on Taiwan proper proved fruitless, more than half of the nation’s radioactive waste has been stored on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼), generating long-standing controversy that has prompted the government to apologize for the sorage on several occasions.

Meanwhile, the high-level nuclear waste produced by the three operating nuclear power plants have been stored mainly within the plants, where storage pools’ maximum capacity has been exceeded.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs also acknowledged recently that a long-term solution for radioactive waste storage is not yet in sight.

Judging from the public’s bitter opposition to the location of low-level nuclear waste storage facilities close to where they live, the location of high-level radioactive waste disposal sites will most likely be the ultimate “hot potato.” If the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is to continue and it is to become operational, nuclear waste disposal will undoubtedly pose a big conundrum for future generations.

In the face of the intractable problem of nuclear waste disposal, my experience as the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency and Taipei mayor has led me to conclude that the key to having a sustainable energy policy lies in economozing our national resourses and recycling them. All of us should endeavor to save electricity regardless of whether the construction of the power plant will be suspended and the government should lead by example on this.

In the meantime, Taipower must reflect deeply on its ineffective management and way of thinking, to embark on a new path that will lead to smarter electricity management.

The state-owned utility should re-evaluate its views on the future growth of demand for electricity and on electricity generation from the perspective of mazimizing efficiency in energy use and distribution.

As for people who support the establishment of a nuclear-free homeland, I urge them to face up to the possible consequences of halting the power plant’s construction with a pragmatic attitude. They have to realize that what they are striving for will inevitably bring dramatic changes to the nation’s energy policies and put an end to the [relatively] low electricity rates and a high-energy-use lifestyle that we currently enjoy.

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