Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Tseng Wen-sheng (曾文生) and nuclear power supporter Liao Yen-peng (廖彥朋) yesterday debated a referendum on scrapping the government’s “nuclear-free homeland by 2025” policy in a discussion broadcast by Formosa TV (民視).
The referendum, initiated by Liao and other nuclear power supporters, asks people whether they agree to abolish Article 95-1 of the Electricity Act (電業法), which stipulates that all nuclear power generation facilities should be decommissioned by 2025.
The referendum is one of 10 to be held alongside the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections. The Central Election Commission has approved five televised debates about each referendum.
Liao, a member of the Chinese Society of Medical Physics, opened the debate by saying that a power outage on Aug. 15 last year aggravated the conditions of critically ill patients by destabilizing the power supply at hospitals, which would not have happened had the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant been operational.
The plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) was most recently mothballed in 2015 during the administration of then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
Solar power is not as “clean” as some people claim, given that many developers are installing panels on wetlands, including in habitats of black-faced spoonbills in Chiayi County, Liao said, adding that chemicals used in solar panels pose another serious threat.
Nuclear waste is disposable, just like the waste produced by medical radiology, he said.
Tseng, who represented the Cabinet, said there had been local campaigns against nuclear power for more than 20 years, and the Basic Environment Act (環境基本法) of 2002 had already stipulated that nuclear power should be abolished before a timeframe was set in the Electricity Act last year.
The referendum would not help reduce air pollution, as its initiators have claimed, given that they propose to generate 20 percent of the nation’s power at nuclear facilities and 40 percent at coal-fired power plants, while the government plans to reduce the ratio of coal-fired power from 47 percent to 30 percent by 2025, he said.
Finland is the only country that can build a repository for radioactive nuclear waste due to its special geological features, which Taiwan does not have, he said, adding that Liao took the matter too lightly.
Taiwan Power Co in 2013 estimated that to finish the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the government would have to spend more than NT$50 billion (US$1.63 billion at the current exchange rate), an amount that should be several times higher now, Tseng said.
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