Legislative review of nuclear-free homeland bill starts

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 - Page 3

A draft law on the promotion of a nuclear-free homeland began its review at the legislature yesterday, but Atomic Energy Council Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) said the nation would not be able to achieve this goal by 2025 and the Ministry of Economic Affairs said the nation might suffer a power shortage.

The draft act, which aims to create a nuclear-free homeland by 2025, was first proposed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2005 and only made it to a legislative review after eight years.

However, it was not smooth sailing for the bill at the joint meeting of the education and economic committees yesterday. The first hour was spent by lawmakers arguing whether civilians should be allowed to participate or speak during the review process.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers said that since a legislative review was not a public hearing, having civilians presents would cause stress to the legislators. Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君), convener of yesterday’s meeting, countered that their participation was protected by the Constitution.

DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said the Basic Environment Act (環境基本法) clearly stipulates that the government must act to achieve a nuclear-free homeland, so the proposed law is an effort to make sure that the government will abide by the law.

While legislators from both parties expressed their support for the goal, Tsai said the nation would not be able to reach this goal by 2025, while ensuring rational electricity rates, a stable power supply and lowering carbon emissions.

As the three operational nuclear power plants are scheduled for retirement before 2025, some of the legislators’ concerns were focused on the new Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮)

“Most of the parts of the first reactor at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant have been completed and are undergoing testing, but the plant has not reached safety standards required for operation,” Tsai said.

Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) said if the plant is not operational by the time the three other power plants retire, the nation is likely to face a power shortage and higher electricity rates.

Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) chairman Hwang Jung-chiou (黃重球) said the use of nuclear power was a major issue linked to national energy safety and the stability of power supply, and needed more time for discussion.

“Civic anti-nuclear groups have worked harder than Taipower, the council and the ministry in communicating with the public on nuclear issues ... and with the media reports about the problems at the nuclear power plants, the public cannot feel safe and confident about these government agencies,” KMT Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) said.

She said those agencies should also be responsible for explaining to the public what other options and methods the nation has if nuclear power is phased out, instead of only talking about a potential power shortage or higher electricity rates.

Cheng said government agencies should stop threatening the public with a power shortage. She said that while Duh has said there may be a power shortage if the nation’s power reserve capacity drops below 7 percent, statistics show that the power reserve capacity has always stayed above 20 percent since 2008 — higher than the minimum capacity of 15 percent regulated by law, and even hitting a high of 28.11 percent in 2009.

Green Citizen Action’s Alliance secretary-general Tsuei Su-hsin (崔愫欣) said with all the problems already found at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the supplementary budget added to the construction should be saved to invest in other sustainable energy resources.

Tsuei added that she hoped the government could keep its promise of not postponing the dates for retiring the old nuclear power plants, as well as coming up with a clear timetable for achieving a nuclear-free homeland.