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Ma invites anti-nuclear mothers to visit fourth nuclear power plant

2013/03/31 21:07:12

President Ma Ying-jeou (right) and Irene Chen

Taipei, March 31 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday invited a group of Taiwanese mothers who are against the use of nuclear energy to visit the controversial fourth nuclear power plant in New Taipei.

During a discussion with representatives of Mom Loves Taiwan, an alliance established to supervise the use of nuclear power, Ma invited the activists to tour the power plant.

"Visiting the facility doesn't mean you support it, but you should as least visit what it is that you're supervising," he said.

Irene Chen, founder of the alliance and board director of the Fubon Cultural and Educational Foundation, said many countries are reducing their reliance on nuclear energy.

France plans to cut nuclear power from 75 percent to 50 percent of its power generation mix, and Germany, which recently got 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy, is phasing it out completely, she said.

With nuclear power plants currently generating only 20 percent of Taiwan's electricity, "we have the ability and great chance to move toward a nuclear free society," Chen said.

She said nuclear safety is the public's biggest concern, but the Control Yuan has so far censured state-run utility Taiwan Power Co. and other entities 16 times for the fourth nuclear power plant and 10 times for their handling of nuclear waste, leaving people feeling "extremely uneasy."

She asked the government to fully inform the public on how it plans to handle nuclear waste and its preparations for decommissioning nuclear power plants.

On the debate over whether a referendum should be held to decide the fate of the fourth nuclear power plant, Chen said the information revealed to the public so far is "incomplete" and that a referendum held in haste might result in a divided society.

She also urged the government to set up a platform that provides information on nuclear power to the public and answers questions on nuclear energy from ordinary citizens.

Ma said the issue of the fourth nuclear power plant has already confounded the country for 20 years, and he hoped that Taiwan's people, with enough understanding of nuclear energy, could solve the issue through a referendum once and for all.

The president said a nuclear-free homeland is the ultimate goal for Taiwan under three conditions -- that the country can maintain reasonable electricity rates, keep its pledge to the international community to reduce carbon emissions and not have to ration power.

He also said the country should develop alternative energy sources and reduce its reliance on energy imports.

The three nuclear power plants currently operating in Taiwan -- two in New Taipei and the other in Pingtung County -- are all around three decades old and are scheduled to be decommissioned in the next 12 years.

Taiwan Power Co. is hoping to use the fourth nuclear power plant to replace some of the power lost when the other three nuclear power stations go off line.

(By Rogge Chen, Huang Chiao-wen and Jamie Wang)