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Economics minister repeats vow to safeguard nuclear plant safety

2013/03/03 19:56:25

Taipei, March 3 (CNA) Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch repeated a vow Sunday to maintain the highest levels of safety standards for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, a week after the government said it is willing to accept a referendum on the controversial plant.

Taiwan could consider developing alternative energy sources in the future if such sources could provide sustainable and cheap power supplies, Chang said, but added that nuclear power is currently the cheapest and most stable source of power for the country.

Unstable power supplies or high electricity rates will have a great impact on the economy, Chang told reporters at the completion ceremony of the first phase of a reservoir silt prevention project in Taoyuan County, northern Taiwan.

He said the ministry in the future will provide information on different options for power supplies and their respective pricing rates, so that the public can make the wisest referendum decision.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs supervises the state-run Taiwan Power Co., which runs the country's nuclear power plants.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah said in late February that the government is willing to accept a referendum on the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project, which is currently under construction.

Taiwan's opposition and civic groups, however, have protested the high requirements for a referendum to pass.

Under the Referendum Act, a proposal of referendum is adopted only if the number of voters reaches more than half of the total eligible voters in the country, municipality, city or county that puts forth the referendum, and more than half of the valid ballots are in agreement with the topic of the referendum.

Tsui Su-hsin, secretary-general of the Green Citizens' Action Alliance, urged the ruling and opposition parties to revise the country's Referendum Act to lower the requirements for referendums to pass.

Tsui also urged the government to give referendum votes in some places more weight than others and to ensure open disclosure of information and equal access to promotion during the referendum voting.

Meanwhile, civic groups in Taiwan are seeking to hold anti-nuclear rallies around the country on March 9 to call attention to the dangers of nuclear power.

The rallies will be held two days ahead of the second anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011 in Japan.

The groups will advocate against providing additional budget for the No. 4 plant, call on the removal of radioactive waste from New Taipei and Taiwan's outlying Orchid Island and demand the immediate closure of the country's other ageing nuclear plants.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Su Tseng-chang is expected to attend the rallies, while sources said Former DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen might also participate.

(By Su Lung-chi, Wang Shu-fen, Bien Chin-feng and Christie Chen)