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Safety a prerequisite for nuclear power: government spokeswoman

2013/02/21 18:38:30

Taipei, Feb. 21 (CNA) The Presidential Office spokeswoman said Thursday that there will be no nuclear energy in Taiwan unless safety can be guaranteed, in a bid to quell public concern about the danger of nuclear power generation.

Garfie Li said the government will keep in mind the public worries about the safety of the under-construction Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and give top priority to the issue.

Responding to environmental activists who gathered in front of the Presidential Office to call for an end to construction of the plant, Li said the government will ask the relevant agencies to conduct complete safety reviews, adopt a hierarchical management system and undertake international assessments and inspections before the plant begins operation.

The earthquake-resistant designs of the three existing nuclear plants, which account for 20 percent of Taiwan's total electricity supply, have been upgraded since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima plant in 2011, Li said.

Su Tseng-chang, chairman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said the government's decision to continue with construction of the plant came as a "surprise" to him as he just had a telephone conversation with the new Premier Jiang Yi-huah a day earlier.

Su said he showed sincerity and gave encouragement to Jiang on the phone, while the premier promised to make changes and adopt different approaches to tackle major issues, including the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, pension reforms and media monopoly.

He was reffering to media reports that said the ruling Kuomintang supports an additional budget of up to NT$40 billion (US$1.35 billion) to continue work on the power plant, which has been under construction for nearly 14 years.

Over 100 environmental groups, or around 50,000 people, are slated to take part in a mass anti-nuclear protest across Taiwan March 9 to call on government to learn from the Japanese disaster, reject the budget and scrap the country's nuclear plants.

Construction of the No. 4 plant, which began in 1999, was suspended in 2000 under the DPP administration of former President Chen Shui-bian as the result of political wrangling over controversial safety issues. Work was restarted in 2001.

(By Huang Ming-hsi, Su Lung-chi, Hsu Chih-wei and Maia Huang)