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Fate of fourth nuclear plant best decided by referendum: premier

2013/03/26 17:46:49

Taipei, March 26 (CNA) Premier Jiang Yi-huah on Tuesday defended his plan to decide the fate of Taiwan's controversial fourth nuclear power plant by referendum after the mayor of Taipei suggested relying on opinion polls instead.

The premier said shutting down the nearly completed plant would have implications for national security, economic development and the way people live and required something more than opinion polls.

"The more appropriate way to deal with such a major issue is through the public will, or a referendum," he said after meeting Monday night with Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu and Keelung Mayor Chang Tong-rong to discuss the issue.

The three mayors, all of whom belong to the ruling Kuomintang, run cities that have large population centers within a 50-kilometer radius of the nuclear power plant site, located in Gongliao, New Taipei.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, who is said to oppose the plant, said Tuesday he favored tracking public opinion to gauge public sentiment and determine if a referendum were even necessary.

Hau said he was not against a referendum in principle but worried that it would be a time-consuming process that could waste social resources and even result in turmoil.

If opinion polls showed sustained opposition to the plant, even if it were determined to be safe and a solution was found for dealing with its radioactive waste, then "it may not be necessary to conduct a referendum" and the government should consider other options to solve the controversy.

Jiang said, however, that the referendum would better reflect popular will.

He said the government had the obligation to clearly present all information for and against the plant for the public's reference and encourage citizens to express their views at the ballot box.

"In this way, the referendum would be a more legitimate approach than if the Cabinet arbitrarily announced the suspension of the construction or the Legislative Yuan passed a resolution blocking the project's completion," the premier said.

Chu backed the referendum idea, saying it was a move in the right direction.

He said the plant's fate could be decided by either a legislative resolution or a referendum, but he felt the referendum was a better alternative since the Legislature has flip-flopped on the issue over the past two decades.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) criticized the premier for not inviting Yilan County Magistrate Lin Tsung-hsien to Monday's meeting, despite the county's proximity to the nuclear power plant site.

The DPP suggested Lin's absence was because he was a member of the opposition party, but Jiang denied the charge, saying Lin was not invited because Yilan, unlike Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung, did not fall within an 8-kilometer emergency planning zone around the plant.

Northern Yilan is within 10 kilometers of the plant, while the outer boundaries of both Keelung and Taipei are both farther away.

(By Chen Shun-hsieh, Justine Su, Johnson Sun, Wang Hung-kuo and
Lilian Wu)