The public must be confused about the issue of whether it is appropriate to restart construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮).
The site has been sealed up for a long time, and the fuel rods have been shipped overseas. So why is a referendum needed on whether to restart construction of the mothballed plant?
The truth is that the plant has become something of a political ATM. If a political party wants to make it an issue for its own political benefit, it resurrects the debate.
However, not only is restarting construction of the plant inappropriate, it is imperative that the government remain committed to its policy of achieving a “nuclear-free homeland.”
There are three reasons that it is not appropriate to restart construction:
First, with the development of any energy source, the protection of lives and property is paramount.
For Taiwan, a densely populated nation in an earthquake zone, if there were to be a nuclear accident, people would have to evacuate quickly. The harm and fear such an event would bring is difficult to imagine.
Second, from a purely economic point of view, construction of the plant, which commenced in 1999, has already cost more than NT$283.8 billion (US$10.2 billion) and the facilities that have been added are up to two decades old. Many of the components have degraded and no longer work.
If construction is to be restarted, those components would need to be replaced, a process that would take a lot of time and money — as a rough estimate, at least a decade and NT$80 billion.
It is questionable whether this process would be sufficient to provide the energy requirements for the rapid development in Taiwan.
Third, there is the question of environmental justice. Where is the nuclear waste to be stored? Nobody has proposed a satisfactory answer to this question. No one would accept having the waste near their home.
In the past, environmental justice was not taken seriously, but that does not mean this state of affairs should continue.
Restarting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant would be unsafe, uneconomical and unjust.
Would Taiwan suffer from electricity shortages if it continues to progress to a non-nuclear homeland? This is the unfounded argument pushed by pro-nuclear groups.
According to electricity generation figures in a Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) report this year, the proportion of electricity generated from nuclear sources has fallen over the years, providing only 12.7 percent of the nation’s electricity last year.
If Taiwan could increase the percentage of renewable energy sources to 20 percent of the total energy mix by 2025, nuclear power would be a nonissue.
Additionally, if the percentage of renewable energy sources continues to increase, as is planned, Taiwan would no longer require nuclear power.
The world has reached a consensus that the way to mitigate climate change is by reducing carbon emissions. Countries the world over are calling for net-zero emissions by 2050, and Taiwan has also committed to this target.
While aiming for this ambitious goal, it is also paramount that the government considers national security, energy autonomy and the development of sustainable energy sources.
As a result, we need to focus our energies on developing renewables to achieve a green transition, and nuclear energy has no part in this.
In the interests of achieving environmental sustainability, many Taiwanese companies have joined the RE100 global initiative to achieve 100 percent of power from renewable sources by 2050. Again, nuclear power is not part of the plan.
In response to the rapid changes and challenges of international political and economic trends, and the energy environment, the world is going through a crucial period of energy transformation.
Green energy technologies and energy conservation development are the major drivers of this transition around the world. Even though the development of renewable energy sources is difficult, it is incumbent that nations rise to the challenge and meet the responsibility to later generations.
It is also the way for Taiwan to truly become a “green island” nation.
Pan Wei-yiu is secretary-general of the Northern Taiwan Society.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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