Anti-nuclear energy activists clashed with their pro-nuclear counterparts on Saturday at an event in Taipei held to gather public opinions in preparation for next month’s energy conference.
The conference is set to focus on identifying alternative energy sources after the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) was suspended over widespread protests about the safety risks of the facility.
The wide divide among advocates and critics of nuclear energy became clear soon after the northern preliminary meeting began.
Homemakers Union Foundation managing supervisor Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) called on the government to raise its 1 percent energy savings goal, while also asking it to provide detailed statistics to substantiate the 8.1 percent energy reduction rate that the Ministry of Economic Affairs claims the nation’s public sector and schools have already achieved.
Taiwan Energy Protection Alliance cofounder Chang Chung-yi (張中一), who spoke after Chen, expressed the opposite opinion.
Quoting a report by the Bureau of Energy, he said that energy conservation efforts would never eliminate the need for new power plants.
He urged the moderator not to mislead participants with faulty information.
Chang also criticized the government’s method of transferring interruptible power from one area to another to resolve power shortages, calling it inefficient.
“The government should promote nuclear energy and the use of coal-fired power plants to reduce energy costs, and then use the money saved to develop a ‘smart’ power grid,” he said.
The seed for a confrontation was sown when anti-nuclear energy activist Yan Shu-nu (顏淑女) requested a desk so that she could take notes more easily, asking the participants: “Doesn’t everyone here want a desk?”
Unusually for such meetings, the question was met with scoffing and a resounding “no” from some of the crowd.
“Only you need a desk,” one participant told Yan.
“We can take our notes just fine this way,” another said.
Taiwan Water Resources Conservation Union’s Jennifer Nien (粘立玉) and Wu Li-hui (吳麗慧) were furious at the reaction, and engaged in a loud exchange with members of nuclear advocacy group Nuclear Myth Busters that culminated with them telling Nien and Wu: “If you don’t like it, just go.”
“It is the likes of these people — who think that just because they take to the streets and raise their voices, that they can get anything they want — that have caused Taiwan so many problems,” Nuclear Myth Buster member Lin Ming-cheng (林明正) said.
Lin’s remark sparked more angry exchanges, which brought the meeting to a standstill.
Taoyuan Local Union director-general Pan Chung-cheng (潘忠政) said he suspects that the Atomic Energy Council has mobilized many state-sponsored and pro-nuclear academics and members of related groups to attend the meetings because the public generally opposes nuclear energy.
“The government can work with academics and provide all these scientific facts about the benefits of nuclear power, but at the end of the day, the decision as to whether to adopt nuclear energy should be decided by the public,” he said.
“I do not think they really understand how people feel about nuclear energy and their actions are a violation of democratic values,” he said.
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