Day one of energy forum ends in audience uproar

TAIWAN CHERNOBYL::An environmental expert from NTU said the chance of a nuclear disaster in northern Taiwan was much higher than the government claimed

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - Page 3

A two-day forum aimed at discussing the transformation of Taiwan into a sustainable, low-carbon environment debuted in New Taipei City (新北市) yesterday, with some backlash from the audience during discussions about nuclear safety.

“It is important to come up with effective methods to reduce carbon emissions and save electricity,” Environmental Protection Administration Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) said at the opening ceremony, adding that to achieve negative growth of energy demand, “we should try to increase energy efficiency and energy storage capacity, while aiming to get more of our energy from renewable sources.”

Andy Liang (梁永煌), president of Business Today magazine, said that compared with Germany, which produces about 20 percent of its electricity using renewable resources, only about 0.5 percent of the total electricity supply in Taiwan is generated from renewables.

In addition, Taiwan is in a better position to develop solar power than Germany because it receives an average of 1,876 hours of sunshine per year, while Germany only receives about 1,600 hours of sunshine per year, he said.

“Twenty-five years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, Germany has decided to go nuclear-free; but what about Taiwan, are we going to take any action one year after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster in Japan?” Liang asked.

Besides carbon reduction, nuclear safety and nuclear waste disposal were the main topics of discussion on the first day of the forum.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that although the US, France and China have discussed nuclear waste disposal with Taiwan, there is still no solution to Taiwan’s waste disposal needs, adding that the government should make a final decision as to where to store nuclear waste as soon as possible.

“There is a consensus that Taiwan must form a nuclear-free homeland,” New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) said. “For people in New Taipei City, this has always been a major concern.”

National Taiwan University professor Kao Cheng-yan (高成炎), who is actively involved in environmental movements, said that according to his statistical analysis, the possibility of a nuclear disaster in northern Taiwan is much higher than the government claims.

Current regulations do not give legal validity to the decisions made in legislative committees, so the best way to put a stop to the operations of nuclear power reactors is through a referendum, he said.

Audience members asked a number of pointed questions about a report by Fuel Cycle and Materials Administration Director Chiou Syh-tsong (邱賜聰) of the Atomic Energy Council saying that the nation’s six operating reactors had been fairly stable in recent years and that there had been a reduction in the amount of nuclear waste at the plants and storage sites.

Audience members also roundly criticized a report by Taipower’s Chai Fu-feng (蔡富豐) saying the nation’s nuclear power plants had more safety measures in place than Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and there were measures to shut down the plants in case of emergency, with some saying the report was deceitful.

The discussion session ended in an uproar, with audience participants shouting their opinions and drowning out speakers.