Tue, Apr 29, 2014 - Page 3 News List

NUCLEAR POWER DEBATE: Polls say majority favor suspending or aborting plant

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

The majority of respondents in two public opinion surveys released yesterday support suspending or terminating the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) and do not believe that the government is capable of handling a nuclear disaster.

In a poll conducted by Commonwealth magazine, 58.7 percent of respondents said they back scrapping the power plant entirely, while 27.2 percent were in favor of suspending the project and 14.1 percent did not provide an answer.

The majority of those polled feel pessimistic about the government’s capacity to deal with nuclear energy, with 67.9 percent saying they have no confidence in the President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s ability to handle radioactive waste and 65.3 percent saying they do not think that the Gongliao facility would be safe once completed.

Asked if they would accept a possible increase in the electricity price caused by reducing the amount of power generated atomically — which according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs could be as much as a 40 percent hike — most people gave negative answers.

The poll was conducted from Wednesday to Friday last week, collecting 1,069 valid samples with a 3 percentage point margin of error.

Another survey on the subject conducted by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research (TISR) produced similar results, with 54.1 percent of participants supporting the suspension or termination of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, while 27.5 percent favored completing it.

Among those who opposed finishing the plant, 26.3 percent were for axing it entirely, down from the 33.2 percent in last month’s results, while 13.8 percent called for suspending construction before holding a national referendum to decide the plant’s fate and 14 percent favored a three-step measure of freezing construction, conducting a safety inspection and then holding a plebiscite.

Meanwhile, the support rate for the government’s proposal to complete the plant, but not put it online immediately increased to 7.6 percent from 2.4 percent last month, with 19.9 percent of respondents backing finishing the plant and launching operations.

The TISR survey found that 75.7 percent of those polled do not trust that the government would be able to handle a disaster like the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011.

Asked if Ma should order a halt to the Gongliao plant’s construction, 51.1 percent of respondents said yes and 29.3 percent said no, with 19.4 percent declining to answer.

The TISR poll found that support for a nuclear-free Taiwan has risen by 5 percent from last month to 55 percent, while another 29.6 percent back atomic power.

The results appeared to suggest that people’s positions on the Gongliao plant and the use of nuclear energy was related to their political party affiliation.

Among those who identified themselves as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporters in TISR’s survey, 48.6 percent backed the plant’s completion and operation and 43.5 percent of those calling themselves Democratic Progressive Party backers urged its termination.

Additionally, 60.9 percent of self-proclaimed pan-blue supporters are in favor of atomic energy, while 80.9 percent of pan-green camp backers oppose it and 58 percent of independent voters are also against nuclear-generated power.

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