Wed, Apr 23, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Nuclear plant ‘must be seen in context’

ROCK AND HARD PLACE:The premier said yesterday that more than 90% of Taiwan’s energy is imported and anybody opposing nuclear power should table alternatives

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ting-fei holds up a birdcage behind a sign referring to former DPP chairman Lin Yi-xiong’s hunger strike in protest against the continued construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, during a legislative consultative session in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

The issue of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is about more than a controversy over nuclear power, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said yesterday, stressing that it should be considered within the bigger picture of the nation’s heavy dependence on imported energy.

Jiang said yesterday at the legislature’s floor meeting that focusing only on the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) is “[inappropriately] narrowing the problem,” since more than 90 percent of Taiwan’s energy has to be imported.

In this context, a post-safety-check Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, along with the three operational nuclear power plants, will play a crucial role in supplying the nation with the energy it needs, he added.

“Many people have concerns or fears about nuclear power. A nuclear-free [nation] might be our long-term, eventual goal, but as we already have three nuclear power plants in operation, it will not be possible to achieve that goal in a single leap,” Jiang said.

“We have to face the problem of where to get the needed energy [if nuclear power is no longer the generator of our electricity]. We also have to face the [dilemma] of environmental protection, since we would have to acquire electricity through burning coal or using natural gas, which would lead to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Compared with nuclear power’s safety concerns, global warming is a more imminent challenge,” he added.

Jiang said that coal-generated power, natural gas and renewable energy have also raised objections, “such as alternative energy-source wind turbines, which have been opposed for the noise they make and ruining the landscape.”

He was referring to the Yuanli Self-Help Group, which has been protesting against a wind turbine project in Miaoli County’s Yuanli Township (苑裡), prompted by the government reaching a unilateral decision with German wind-power company InfraVest Wind Power Group without consulting the residents, and a law that sets the minimum distance between wind turbines and habitation at 250m, which is shorter than a range of between 400m and 1,500m maintained in countries such as Denmark and Germany.

In another round of protests staged by Yuanli residents on Wednesday last week, a protester said “the group welcomes the government promoting alternative, clean sources of energy, but it should develop a mechanism for local residents to participate in projects and not stand on the side of large enterprises.”

Jiang said that anyone who opposes nuclear power “has the responsibility of tabling an alternative energy development policy for the nation.”

On a potential referendum to decide whether to activate the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant by inserting the fuel rods, Jiang said the position of the Executive Yuan and the Presidential Office is nothing but “completing safety checks first before any possibility of a referendum.”

“But that does not mean once the safety check has been conducted by the Atomic Energy Council, a referendum automatically ensues,” the premier said, adding that the safety check report would be made public and discussed in the Legislature before any further discussion of a referendum.

The meaning of a referendum, Jiang said, is to have the people decide, “while well aware of the consequences, such as higher electricity tariffs and possible rationing of electricity, which suspension of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant might instigate,” whether they want to shoulder those burdens.

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