Opposition demands fair referendum on new Taiwan nuclear plant
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s main opposition party called on Tuesday for a change in the law governing referendums to give voters a fair chance to decide whether to halt construction of a fourth nuclear power station on the self-governing island.
The ruling Nationalist Party, long a backer of the project, bowed to opposition demands on Monday to hold a referendum on halting the construction of two reactors in New Taipei City county in northern Taiwan.
The opposition says provisions of Taiwan’s Referendum Act make it difficult to pass any motion submitted for approval, as half of all voters must take part, and half of them must vote in favour of a motion for it to pass.
“We want an impartial and fair referendum,” opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang said in a statement. “Not with this ‘bird cage’ referendum law and not in this deceptive manner.”
The government is clearly gambling on a favourable vote to proceed.
Construction is 98 per cent complete and tests have begun on the first reactor. Any halt to the project would incur huge costs, with the budget standing at T$283.8 billion ($9.57 billion), according to state-owned Taipower, and the cabinet is expected to seek additional funds in June.
Opposition to nuclear power swept across the world following the 2011 crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, triggered by an earthquake and tsunami. But pressure on governments to reduce reliance on oil and tap cheaper energy forms is bringing projects back to the drawing board.
Last month, South Korea decided to expand its nuclear programme despite safety concerns and scares that closed two reactors. China this month started up the first reactor commissioned since the meltdowns at Fukushima, the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
Taiwan has run its affairs separately from China since defeated Chinese Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war in 1949. It began introducing democratic procedures in the 1980s, including multi-party elections, the right of assembly and referendums.