A referendum on resuming construction of Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) is to be held on Aug. 28.
Asked whether she would support the resumption of the plant’s construction, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who is also chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), categorically said: “My position is very clear — the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should not be activated.”
Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), be it because he has a guilty conscience or is trying to evade the issue, has not said outright whether he thinks the plant should be activated.
Instead, he has said that “the DPP built the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and the KMT mothballed it,” asking rhetorically whether “the DPP is willing to let the public decide through a referendum whether the plant should be kept or scrapped.”
Some Taiwanese are against nuclear power and some are in favor of it, but when it comes to the two major political parties, everyone knows that the DPP opposes nuclear power and the KMT supports it.
Chiang’s word games, claiming that “the DPP built the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant,” demonstrates the KMT’s deviousness and dishonesty.
The DPP was founded in 1986, and the KMT was in control of all branches of government until 2000. A glance at a few key moments in the history of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant makes it crystal clear who did its utmost to ensure that the plant was built.
In 1980, the Executive Yuan approved Taiwan Power Co’s (Taipower) application to build the plant.
In 1983, the Executive Yuan, in view of the general public’s doubts about nuclear power, ordered Taipower to delay construction until such misgivings could be cleared up.
In February 1992, the branch reapproved a motion for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project to be restarted.
On May 24, 1996, the DPP launched a surprise attack in the Legislative Yuan, passing a motion to cease construction of the plant — although Taipower the next day invited tenders for building nuclear reactors and processing spent nuclear fuel, with the contract going to the US’ General Electric Co (GE).
Then, on Oct. 18 of the same year, the KMT moved to repeal the earlier decision and authorize continued construction of the plant.
In 2000, the DPP took over the executive branch from the KMT. On Oct. 27 of that year, five months after the DPP came into power, the Executive Yuan ordered construction of the plant to cease.
However, because the DPP held a minority of 70 seats in the legislature, while the KMT held 123 seats and its pan-blue ally the New Party held 11, angry pan-blue legislators proposed a motion to recall then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and requested the Control Yuan to impeach the Executive Yuan.
At the end of January 2001, pan-blue lawmakers used their legislative majority to pass a resolution to immediately restart construction of the plant.
Although the ruling DPP was adamantly opposed to the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, it had no choice but to draw up a new budget for resumed construction.
That is the background of Chiang’s false claim that “the DPP built the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.”
On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which caused a serious accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and shocked the world.
On March 9, 2013, the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance and other organizations held a major anti-nuclear power demonstration calling for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project to be scrapped and for Taiwan to end nuclear power generation.
In addition, Taipower’s nuclear waste storage site was at the time full, and a new storage facility could not be agreed upon.
Therefore, the government of then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT was in 2014 forced to announce that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant would be mothballed.
This is the background of Chiang’s claim that “the KMT mothballed the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.”
Given that the ruling DPP loudly proclaims that “the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project should not be reactivated” and the KMT claims that it has mothballed the plant, does this not mean that there is a consensus between the parties?
Regardless of an individual’s political affiliation, Taiwanese must acknowledge that the two parties represent about 70 percent of public opinion, and that should be quite enough.
Whoever proposed the referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant does not really mean it seriously — they are just going through the motions.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a retired associate professor at National Hsinchu University of Education.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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