Mass protest against Taiwan nuclear plant

More than 120 anti-nuclear groups and officials from the ruling political party have taken part in a protest march against the country’s new nuclear plant which sits atop a live submarine volcano.

According to The Taipei Times more than 10,000 anti-nuclear protesters marched through the streets of the capital, Taipei, on 24 February, to call for the government to allow a referendum on the fate of the island’s partially-complete, fourth nuclear power plant, which is situated atop an earthquake belt and a live submarine volcano. The protesters included members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has an anti-nuclear platform.

The ruling party criticises the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (NPP4), as it is known in English, not only for being dangerously located, but also for being unnecessary and far too expensive, with total costs estimated at 416.4 billion Taiwan Dollars (US$13 billion). Although supporters of nuclear power argue if the NPP4 were cancelled, Taiwan would face a high risk of electricity shortages. Ever since the government began gradual deregulation of power generation, the DPP argues that many companies have invested in co-generation resulting in more installed capacity than the new plant’s potential. Those against the plant also argue that Taiwan has insufficient capacity to cope with further radioactive waste and say that relating the environmental impact assessment was not correctly carried out. There is a also historic site inside the construction site.

The plant had been approved by the previous Nationalist Party administration on the premise of it being essential for economic growth and, despite not ruling the island, the party still holds a parliamentary majority and is supported in its nuclear proposals by a coalition of other political parties. This infuriates the DPP of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, who came to power promising to scrap NPP4 and still has a “hope of a nuclear-free homeland”. When this promise led to parliamentary disputes which threatened investment, Prime Minister Chang Chun-hsiung recommenced the halted project on 14 February and urged parliament to authorise the use of referendums in such cases. However, Chang has still not committed to a referendum on the project and the opposition has warned him against the proposal, worried that it would anger China, which fears the referendum as a tool for independence from the Chinese mainland.

Residents of Kungliao, a small fishing village outside Taipei where NPP4 is located, are now furious about supporting Chen’s election bid. “We look down upon those DPP members who have betrayed the people, lied to their supporters, and turned their backs on the parties,” Kungliao’s mayor, Chao Kuo-tung reportedly said. Fishermen in the village complain that the construction of the plant has contributed to a deterioration of the marine environment.

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