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Minister to communicate with lawmaker on nuclear referendum

2013/09/11 18:40:58

Taipei, Sept. 11 (CNA) Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch said Wednesday that he hopes to call on a lawmaker who announced a day earlier that he was withdrawing a draft bill for a referendum on the fate of the fourth nuclear power plant.

"Should the chance present itself, I'll call on Legislator Lee Ching-hua (to communicate with him on the matter)," the minister said.

Lee, a member of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), said he was withdrawing his draft bill, saying that now is not the right time for the Legislature to handle the issue, given the present political turmoil.

He was referring to the brouhaha over allegations of influence peddling involving Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng that had taken the spotlight in Taiwan's politics over the past several days.

Lee said the referendum bill is crucial to national development and the people's welfare and should be conducted with the consensus of the Presidential Office, the Legislative Yuan, the Executive Yuan, the political parties and the public.

The referendum bill is among several that the KMT hopes the Legislature will process in the fall session that opens in mid-September.

Chang also said that ongoing safety inspections at the almost- completed nuclear power plant are paramount and will not be affected by a referendum, should such a vote take place.

He noted that the government has already invested nearly NT$300 billion (US$10.116 billion) in the plant and that major construction work and equipment installation has been completed.

According to a bipartisan consensus reached in the Legislature in February, no additional budget should be authorized for the plant and its nuclear fuel rods should not be installed until after a referendum has been held.

Construction work should be suspended, except for work that has been contracted out or involves safety tests.

Officials of the state-owned Taiwan Power Co., which runs the plant, said the latest developments on the referendum bill are worrisome.

Chang said a day earlier that he would communicate with the Legislature on the frozen additional budget for Taipower for this year.

(By Huang Chiao-wen, Yeh Tzu-kang and Lilian Wu)