The government should hold more seminars and public hearings on nuclear energy issues to give the public a better understanding of nuclear power’s viability in Taiwan, a local group urged yesterday.
“We need transparency and full discussion, because the dispute over the fate of the country’s controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant continues to simmer,” said Eugene Chien, chairman of the Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy (TAISE).
There is a lack of public knowledge about nuclear power, the design of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and nuclear safety technology, Chien said on the sidelines of a Taiwan-Germany forum on low carbon cities.
The government contends that nuclear power plants play an important role in Taiwan’s economic development, but the public also has the right to know more about them, he said, especially ahead of a planned referendum on the fate of the nearly completed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
“It is always nice to be well-informed before making any decisions,” Chien said.
Worries over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project have galvanized opposition to the use of nuclear power in Taiwan, culminating in nationwide anti-nuclear rallies on Saturday that drew an estimated 200,000 people.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) late last month reiterated the government’s commitment to ensure that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is safe before it is allowed to begin commercial operations.
He proposed that energy authorities seek the help of experts and agencies “as soon as possible” to clear up doubts about the controversial project.
German Institute Taipei deputy director-general Mirko Kruppa said the German experience shows that it is important to have a national consensus on energy policy, including how to deal with nuclear power.
It took Germany over 25 years of “fierce debate” before a national consensus was reached to phase out nuclear power by 2022, and the consensus was only possible because it was incorporated in a 40-year energy policy that showed the whole picture, Kruppa said.
“Nuclear power is one part of it,” he said, adding that without a comprehensive energy policy that has a long-term perspective, “there will be never-ending discussion” about nuclear power.
One critical difference between the two countries that has fueled the rise of electricity production from alternative sources in Germany is Germany’s free energy market, in which everyone can produce energy, whether it be biomass energy produced on one’s land or solar power on one’s rooftop, Kruppa said.
“Everybody in Germany now can become an energy producer, which has helped boost the development of green energy,” Kruppa said.
Energy in Taiwan is distributed by the state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower), which runs the country’s nuclear power plants.
Kruppa stressed that Taiwan’s relatively low energy prices are “not sustainable,” and said the longer Taiwan waits to reform its fundamental market issues, the more difficult and costly it will be to make the changes.
German Institute Taipei Director-General Michael Zickerick said he hoped the forum could provide Taiwan with information on green buildings and energy efficiency and allow experts from the two sides to interact.
The forum was part of a second series of events on sustainability organized by the German Institute Taipei and TAISE, with support from Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration.
The German office and TAISE signed a letter of intent in 2011 to carry out a “sustainability roadshow” platform, which organizes forums to bring together non-governmental organizations, universities, government and the public to find ways to develop environmentally sustainable practices.