Legislators raise concerns about council’s budgeting

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Tue, May 28, 2013 - Page 3

Lawmakers at a meeting of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee yesterday questioned the Atomic Energy Council about its nuclear accident emergency response fund, saying that if an accident occurred, the council would only be able give residents living within 20km of a plant about NT$71.1 (US$2.40) each in compensation.

According to a report presented to the committee by Atomic Energy Council Minister Tsai Chuen-horng’s (蔡春鴻) yesterday, the council’s emergency response fund had a total income of NT$96.79 million and total expenses of NT$79.61 million last year.

In the wake of the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in 2011, the council planned to raise the fund’s total budget to NT$122 million this year, Tsai said, adding that the increased budget would help increase the number of the nuclear safety drills, extend the size of the emergency planning zone and improve public communications about nuclear safety.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said that although the council amended the Nuclear Emergency Response Act (核子事故緊急應變法) last year to increase the emergency response fund that nuclear power plants give to the council from NT$2.4 million to NT$5.4 million each year, it is expected to increase the budget from NT$140 million to NT$221.5 million this year.

However, he said that NT$221.5 million would still not be enough.

If that sum is split between all the residents living within 20km of the nation’s four nuclear power plants — about 2.81 million people — each person would receive about NT$71.1 as compensation, he said.

According to the council’s evaluations, the emergency response fund for a nuclear accident would need to be at least NT$780 million to provide adequate compensation, he added

Responding to Lin’s remarks, Tsai said the fund was only used for regular safety training and drills, as well as for short-term emergency response operations.

It does not include compensation for nearby residents, which is outlined by the Nuclear Damage Compensation Law (核子損害賠償法), Tsai said.

In addition, he said that although the fund’s balance was insufficient, the council aims to gradually increase the remaining budget to reach a satisfactory amount in the next nine to 10 years.