In its first public policy meeting, which was streamed live, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) presidential policy advisory team outlined its energy policy. It also signed a petition for a referendum on resuming work on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Should Han get elected, he will restart work on this money pit.
The presidential election and the signature drive for referendums on abolishing or resuming work at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant that ends this month will be the focus of the fight for a nuclear-free homeland. The Democratic Progressive Party will no longer be able to avoid this issue as it did last year.
Han’s team consists of many of former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) officials, who still cling to nuclear power. The combination of “Han fans” plus “nuclear fans” is a recipe for a farce full of “fake news” and empty promises.
New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) has said that resumption of work at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is a non-issue, as the fuel rods have already been shipped to the US and resumption of construction would be very expensive.
In a meeting with firefighters, he said that they would be unable to handle a nuclear disaster. The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Taipei intelligentsia have never warmed to Han and do not accept using populism to manipulate energy issues.
Former premier Simon Chang (張善政), now head of Han’s advisory team, said that the fuel rods not yet shipped are sufficient to operate the plant’s No. 1 reactor. He only mentioned the one reactor because parts have already been taken from the No. 2 reactor. The plant cannot be completed, and Han’s views only reveal his ignorance.
Nuclear waste is another of Hou’s concerns. Han’s team said that nuclear waste could be sent to France to be refined, but the process would produce more nuclear waste with a half-life of 10,000 years that would end up back in Taiwan. No wonder the legislature did not approve this project as costs continue to increase.
The mixed-oxide fuel rods — which are what is produced through reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to recover fissionable plutonium — are not compatible with mainstream nuclear reactors and cannot be used at Taiwan’s plants. Will a fifth nuclear power plant need to be built?
Areva, the company that would refine the fuel rods, is on the verge of bankruptcy, so Han, who always talks about “becoming rich,” is pinning his hopes on a declining industry — nuclear power.
Han looks to China, saying that many nuclear power plants there operate close to Taiwan, but there are no plants in Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam or Thailand. The Bataan Nuclear Power plant in the Philippines is completed, but has never been started. Singapore’s economy is going strong without nuclear power.
In last year’s referendums, 4 million people rejected Proposition 16 to repeal the part of Article 95 of the Electricity Act (電業法) stipulating that nuclear power be stopped by 2025. If one-tenth of those people signed the petition for a referendum on ending nuclear power and promoting renewable energy, the 300,000-signature threshold for initiating the referendum would be reached before the end of this month, placing the proposal on the referendum ballot on Aug. 28, 2021, alongside the proposal to resume work at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
Voters can solve this issue once and for all — close down the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant after 20 years of on-again, off-again construction, and turn the site into a renewable energy power plant promoting local regeneration.
Liu Jyh-jian is president of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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