Nuclear Power Debate: PROFILE: Gongliao resident recounts long fight

By Wu Liang-yi and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - Page 3

“The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is a patchwork of different parts; all it takes is for one part to go wrong and the whole place would be irradiated for the next 10,000 years. Why is the government so adamant about seeing it go into commercial operation capability?”

This question has long vexed 56-year-old Wu Wen-chang (吳文樟) — who was born in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮), home to the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant — and prompted him to join the anti-nuclear movement. He now seeks to convince the government to put the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant’s reactor to good use by turning the plant into a nuclear power museum.

A short distance from Fulong Train Station sits a large field belonging to Wu and his family. Bordered by a small river and with an occasional peacock strutting about, the field is the epitome of bucolic calm. Indeed, the Wu family could be mistaken for farmers were it not for the large red flag stuck into the ground emblazoned with the words: “No Nukes, Save Taiwan!”

“We’ve been living in the area for several generations and we started keeping tabs on the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant when the government stated its scheme to use the Gongliao site in the 1980s,” Wu said.

In 1985, the Chernobyl nuclear accident occurred in the Ukraine and construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant was halted on the orders of then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), Wu said.

Wu added that over time, the issue of nuclear safety became more controversial with more and more problems at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant being exposed.

“The more information I gathered on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant the more it became obvious to me that it could be very dangerous, because there were multiple contractors for different parts of the project,” Wu said, adding that Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) has also made subtle alterations to many of the designs.

“If this patchwork job of a plant goes into operation, nobody can predict what could happen,” Wu said.

Citing Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear incident, Wu said Japan is likely to have better designs and security measures than Taiwan and that if Japan suffered such a heavy blow, “how can Taiwanese simply stand by and do nothing about the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant?”

Wu said that prior to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant incident, it had been difficult for him to promote the anti-nuclear movement because not everyone agreed with the movement’s beliefs.

Two years ago, shortly after he was appointed head of the Yenliao Anti-Nuclear Self-Help Association, the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear incident happened, which “gave Taiwanese a good scare and terrified the residents of Gongliao District,” Wu said.

“Now a lot of people agree with the movement and they know what we are fighting against,” Wu said.

Wu said the message the Yenliao Anti-Nuclear Self-Help Association has been spreading for years is now making serious headway and many people have started supporting the association, either through direct participation in its events or through donations.

Wu pointed to the car that the association used for both transport and as a mobile billboard and said that it had been a gift from Yilan Charlie Chen Foundation president Chen Hsi-nan (陳錫南).

“He [Chen] told me to keep up the good work for all Taiwanese and their descendants,” Wu said.

“Some of the tourists who come to Fulong stop at my place after seeing the car with the anti-nuclear slogan painted on it and offer me encouragement or even call out the ‘No Nukes, save Taiwan’” slogan, Wu said.

The anti-nuclear movement has been gaining momentum in recent years and has started to peak in recent months, Wu said.

“It is a sign that Taiwanese are beginning to realize that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant’s construction is a matter that concerns everyone in the nation,” he said.

While Wu is not affiliated with any political party, he said there were often those who labeled him and other anti-nuclear activists as pan-green, or supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party.

“I’m not particularly concerned with labels; in my opinion both political parties are Taiwanese, and any that step up to speak out or do something about the issue of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, they are — in the view of the association — a good political party,” Wu said.

Political parties should set aside their differences and sit down to debate how to resolve the nuclear power issue, he said.

“It is one of my greatest wishes that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant does not go into commercial operation and instead be turned into a museum in which all sorts of information on nuclear power could be displayed,” Wu said.

“Hopefully our progeny will see the day when nuclear power plants are no longer needed,” he said.