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Referendum on nuclear plant only when safety ensured: premier

2013/03/06 20:48:53

Taipei, March 6 (CNA) Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Wednesday that he will do his best to ensure the safety of the fourth nuclear power plant before putting the fate of the plant to a referendum.

The premier also said the issue should be put to a national rather than a local referendum.

Jiang made the remarks in response to minor opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislative whip Lin Shih-chia and Nuclear Free Homeland Alliance Executive Director Lee Cho-han, who said the planned referendum on the fate of the plant will not solve the problem of nuclear safety.

They also demanded a local rather than a national referendum to allow residents near the plant, located in New Taipei's Gongliao District, to express their views.

In response, Jiang said he hopes a referendum on the plant can be initiated during the current legislative session and sent to the Central Election Commission (CEC).

"A referendum on the plant could be held in August at the earliest or in December at the latest," he said. Before it takes place, he added, the government will ensure that safety checks are carried out.

"We'll ensure the plant's safety before putting the issue to a referendum," the premier said.

He said the referendum will not be to decide upon the safety of the plant but will represent public opinion on the overall value of life in Taiwan, based on the premise that the plant is safe.

"We will do our best in terms of safety checks before a referendum date is declared by the CEC. If we complete the checks before that date, and local and foreign scholars and experts give us assurances on the plant's operation, that would be best. But if the checks have not been fully carried out by that date, we hope to have them 80 percent or 90 percent completed, " he added.

TSU Legislator Lin questioned why a national referendum should decide the fate of the people living in the immediate vicinity of the plant, to which Jiang responded that if a local referendum can supersede a national referendum, it could be difficult to interpret in a legal sense.

He said that when debating on the referendum, the Cabinet has not disrespected the feelings of local people, but believes that a national referendum is needed, as it is an important issue that requires the involvement of all the country's people.

Turning to the issue of a large demonstration scheduled to be staged by anti-nuclear groups March 9, he said he has no prior engagements for that day and if the groups want to address him, he will be in "standby" mode to meet them.

(By Tseng Ying-yu and Lilian Wu)