Nuclear Power Debate: Make the cost of nuclear disaster public: activists

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Mar 08, 2013 - Page 3

Environmental advocates yesterday urged the government to make public its calculations of the potential damage that a nuclear disaster could cause before it puts the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), to a referendum.

Estimates of the costs associated with a nuclear disaster, they said, could serve as a reference when people cast their ballots.

The call to release the information was made at a press conference attended by Taiwan Environmental Protection Union representative Gloria Hsu (徐光蓉), Green Party central committee member Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲), Nuclear-free Homeland Alliance executive director Lee Cho-han (李卓翰) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-ching (田秋堇).

Tien said she had asked different government agencies to give her an estimate of the costs to the nation’s economy, environment and society if a nuclear disaster occured in Taiwan after the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant two years ago. However, only the Public Construction Commission had replied, saying that investments in public construction projects since 2006 within a 20km radius of the nation’s four nuclear power plants would be lost if an accident occurs, with the financial losses exceeding NT$115.7 billion (US$3.9 billion).

Tien said that financial experts have estimated that the financial losses caused by the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant reached NT$128 trillion.

She said the Japanese government also needed to spend an additional NT$320 trillion removing radiation from soil and NT$240 trillion dealing with radiation in forests. The entire cost of the nuclear crisis in Japan is NT$688 trillion so far, she said.

Hsu said Tokyo Electric Power Co, which owns the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, had applied for loans twice in an attempt to solve its financial problems, due to the overwhelming costs of compensation and restoration work the company faced following the accident.

She asked who in Taiwan could afford to pay such a huge amount of compensation if a similar incident occurred here.

Pan said that some people think they could flee to central and southern Taiwan if a nuclear disaster occurred. However, he said no part of the nation would be spared from radiation.

“People should stop using the threat of nuclear disaster as a way to inflate house prices in central Taiwan,” Pan said. “If what happened in Japan happens in Taiwan, only those who flee to the mountains, at least 3,000m above sea level, or who flee to another country would not be affected.”

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Referendum for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Taipei, New Taipei City and Keelung and Yilan counties suggested that the Referendum Act (公民投票法) be amended to lower the threshold to pass a referendum.

To discontinue the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, a referendum needs at least 50 percent of eligible voters to submit a ballot for it to be valid.

“We think the most viable solution would be to amend the Nuclear Reactor Facilities Regulation Act (核子反應器設施管制法), allowing those who live within a 50km radius of the nuclear power plant to decide whether they want the plant to be completed,” National Taiwan University professor Shih Shin-min (施信民) said.