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Ma calls for honest communication over nuke plant controversy

2013/02/23 15:45:38

Taipei, Feb. 23 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Saturday the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project is a dilemma for Taiwan and he will honestly communicate with the people to try to resolve the controversy over the issue.

Amid rising calls for the suspension of the plant in New Taipei City, the president said that whether construction should be suspended will depend on comprehensive information, which is the basis for policy making.

He made the remarks during a meeting with 45 Cabinet members, including the premier, vice premier, ministers without portfolio, secretary general, spokesperson and ministers.

He said that the government will listen, study and communicate before making a decision and executing it.

The government will listen with humility, noting that a lot of civilian groups, including the anti-nuclear "Mom Loves Taiwan" alliance, have recently expressed their views.

Ma noted that it is only natural for people to be concerned with the safety of public facilities because they live on the same island and face the same challenges.

The next step will be to study carefully, and "to know the benefits and harms as well as consequences of not constructing and of suspending the nuclear power plant," he said.

"We have to clearly explain this so that people will know the consequences under certain circumstances before making decisions," he said.

The next step will be to communicate with the public, because all will have to shoulder the future challenges.

"This is not the responsibility of one individual or one political party alone," Ma said.

The fourth and final step is to make a cautious decision and execute it efficiently, he said.

He said that the four steps may sound like cliches, but one cannot deny that the government, when making public policy decisions, sometimes fail to carry out the necessary procedures, leading to misgivings along the way.

Ma said that since the budget for the fourth nuclear power plant was made available in 1992, the plant has been under construction for the past two decades under various administrations of different political parties.

Ma said one must consider many questions before making a decision: "What exactly should be done that is best for the people? How do countries with a similar situation handle such matters? What are the future energy needs of Taiwan? Are people willing to shoulder the responsibility for a changed energy price or supply?"

"Just like the policy on pension reform, this will be a decision of Catch-22," he said.

Ma said if the government does not do this, it will not be able to meet future challenges, but if it does this, it may not get any applause.

He also said that sometimes it is difficult to determine which information is correct and which is not, and participation from a lot of experts is needed.

"No matter what, the people in this country will have to bear the consequences," Ma said, "This is why we have to explain it very clearly and communicate honestly."

Sources close to public utility company Taiwan Power Company, which runs the plant, has said that Taipower hopes to begin commercial operations of the plant by October 2015.

(By Kelven Huang and Lilian Wu)