2018 Referendums: Proposals against DPP’s energy plans sail through

NEXT STEP::Celebrating passage of Referendum #16, Huang Shih-hsiu announced plans for two new ones, including one to start the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Nov 26, 2018 - Page 3

Three referendums challenging the government’s energy policies passed on Saturday, even in some areas where nuclear power plants are located.

Of the 10 referendums held on Saturday, referendum #7, initiated by former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), now Taichung mayor-elect, asked: “Do you agree that the share of thermal power in the annual energy structure should be reduced by at least 1 percent per year on average?’”

At least one-quarter of the eligible voters — or 4,939,267 —needed to vote on a referendum, with the “yes” votes outnumbering the “nos,” for it to be passed.

With 7,955,753 votes in favor of referendum #7 and 2,109,157 votes against it, it scored the highest number of “yes” votes of the 10 referendums, Central Election Commission (CEC) data as of 4:13am yesterday showed.

Referendum #8, initiated by KMT Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福), which asked: “Do you agree with the following energy policy: ‘The construction or expansion of any coal-fired power plants or generating facilities [inclusive of the expansion of the Shendo Power Plant] should be halted?’” also passed, by 7,599,267 votes for and 2,346,316 against.

Referendum #16, initiated by Nuclear Myth Busters founder Huang Shih-hsiu (黃士修), was the only one to seek a repeal of a legal article, and therefore the only one legally binding on the government.

The proposal asked: “Do you agree that subparagraph 1, Article 95 of the Electricity Act (電業法), which reads: ‘Nuclear-energy-based power-generating facilities shall wholly stop running by 2025,’ should be abolished?”

It passed by 5,895,560 votes to 4,014,215, which means that the article would cease to be law three days after the CEC announces the official referendum result.

The outcome showed that a “nuclear-free homeland was never a public consensus,” Huang said at about midnight on Saturday as he celebrated the victory in live-streamed footage alongside referendum advocate Liao Yen-peng (廖彥朋), before the final results were confirmed.

The government should extend the decommissioning schedules of the three operational nuclear power plants and resume the construction of the mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮), he said.

Despite some people’s claim that Gongliao residents are opposed to nuclear facilities, the result showed that there is basically a tie in the district, with 2,384 votes against the proposal and 2,347 for it, Liao said, citing CEC data.

Votes in favor of the referendum outnumbered those against it in the districts in New Taipei City and Pingtung County where operational power plants are located, while on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼), where nearly 100,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste are stored, there were 817 votes against the proposal and 634 votes in favor of it, CEC data showed.

Huang said his supporters have begun collecting signatures for two new referendum proposals, one seeking to start the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and the other to remove Orchid Island’s nuclear waste depository, with the first hopefully held alongside the 2020 presidential election.

The National Anti-Nuclear Action Platform said that people who cast “yes” votes on the pro-nuclear referendum lacked confidence in the government’s energy policies.

The pro-nuclear camp had spread a lot of disinformation about the referendum, but its members would redouble their efforts to stop the development of nuclear energy, it added.

The government’s goal to phase out nuclear energy facilities by 2025 has not changed, as it needs four to five years to assess whether to extend operations of the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Pingtung County, but the deadline for proposing an extension plan is next year, Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said.

The deadlines for extending the Jinshan and Guosheng plants in New Taipei City have passed, the Atomic Energy Council has previously said.

Premier William Lai (賴清德) last month canceled the Shenao construction project, which corresponds with the call for no more coal-fired power plants, while the Executive Yuan would ask the Ministry of Economic Affairs to reduce 1 percent of thermal power generation every year under the principle that the power supply is stable, Kolas said.

Additional reporting by Lee Hsin-fang