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Nuclear plant construction must stop before referendum: DPP

2013/02/25 22:45:00

Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asked the government on Monday to halt the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, freeze budgets for the controversial project and revise the Referendum Act before putting the project to a referendum.

If the government wants people to decide on whether or not to scrap the project, it should first halt construction, said DPP Legislator Ker Chien-ming, a caucus whip, after Premier Jiang Yi-huah made clear the government's willingness to accept the challenge of a public referendum on the nearly-completed project.

In doubt, Ker said he believes the reason the government, knowing there is a high threshold for the passage of a referendum, proposed the referendum is to dissolve mounting calls by anti-nuclear activists for the project to be scrapped.

It was just trying to keep the nuclear project from being scrapped by changing its strategy, the lawmaker argued.

If the government is serious about holding a referendum on the 4th nuclear power plant project, it should first freeze all the relevant budgets, halt the construction work, and revise the law that governs referendums or set up special regulations for the proposed referendum on the controversial project, he said.

Meanwhile, the DPP issued a statement, which listed the demands Ker mentioned concerning the 4th nuclear plant project.

The construction of the plant in Gongliao District of New Taipei City, northern Taiwan, began in March 1999. Commercial runs of its first reactor were scheduled to be kicked off in 2011, but was postponed following the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan in March that year.

So far, Taiwan has spent more than NT$280 billion (US$9.5 billion) building the new plant.

In the statement, the major opposition political party condemned the Cabinet for attempting to use the strict Referendum Act to ensure that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant of Taiwan continues.

According to a survey conducted by a DPP-affiliated think tank in January, 59.9 percent of the respondents disapproved of continuing construction of the nuclear plant.

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 or county (city) that puts forth the referendum, and more than half of the valid ballots agrees.

If the number of voters does not reach the threshold or the number of proponents fails to surpass half of the valid ballots, the proposal is vetoed.

Earlier in the day, Premier Jiang said the government is willing to accept a referendum on the controversial nuclear power project, but he did not divulge any details on the scope or guidelines of the potential referendum the government has in mind.

The issue was discussed at a high-level government meeting held late Sunday, which led to the consensus to hold a referendum to let the people decide whether the project should be continued.

In response, Gongliao residents hailed the latest development concerning the nuclear power plant that has been under construction close to their home.

Gongliao district chief Hsu Hsi-hsiang said a referendum is "the best way to resolve the dispute" because it is an opportunity for people to express their opinions.

Saying most Gongliao residents are opposed to the project, he noted they had asked for a referendum many times in the past but the government had never answered their requests.

(By Tseng Ying-yu, Wang Hung-kuo and Elizabeth Hsu)