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Over 1,000 protest in Taipei against nuclear power

2012/03/11 19:48:48

Taipei, March 11 (CNA) Over 1,000 protesters marched in Taipei on Sunday, the first anniversary of Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, to call for the scrapping of nuclear power plants in Taiwan.

The rally, initiated by close to 100 civic groups, commemorated the disasters in Japan last year that caused reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the emission of large amounts of radioactive substances.

Citizens, activists, and residents near nuclear facilities urged the government to learn from the lesson by shutting down Taiwan's three operational nuclear plants and stop work on a fourth currently under construction.

Some protesters carried photos of their own funeral to symbolize the end of the world if a nuclear disaster were to occur, and some carried green paper windmills to express their hope for clean energy instead of nuclear power.

"Our Presidential Office is within only kilometers of a nuclear power plant. We should learn the lesson of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine the consequences," Chen Man-li, president of the Homemakers United Foundation, said at the rally.

Sinan Mavivo, representative of an alliance against nuclear power in Taiwan's outlying Orchid Island, said the indigenous Dao people on the island have protested against nuclear waste for 30 years.

"We can understand the fears of the Japanese people in the face of radiation threats. We hope to both voice our support for them and call attention to the (nuclear waste) problems on Orchid Island," she said.

Since 1982, state-run utility Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), which operates the country's nuclear plants, has stored over 90,000 barrels of nuclear waste on the 45-square-kilometer island.

Taipower issued a statement on March 9 reiterating the safety of the nuclear waste, saying radioactive leaks detected on the island were far lower than maximum radiation safety levels and posed no threat to the human body or the environment.

Sinan Mavivo said, however, that the Dao people are skeptical of the company's assurances.

"If it was so safe, it should not be stored on Orchid Island," she said.

In the statement, Taipower said that over the past year it had taken measures under the supervision of the Atomic Energy Council to step up the safety of its nuclear plants.

The steps included reassessing the potential impact of earthquakes on local nuclear power plants and reinforcing plants according to standards set by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A study commissioned by the National Science Council also suggested that nuclear plants in Taiwan would not be damaged even if a tsunami occurred, the company said.

The report concluded that the largest tsunami that could hit nuclear power plants in northern Taiwan was less than four meters high, while the biggest that could threaten the nuclear power plant in southern Taiwan, which is 15 meters above sea level, would be under 10 meters high, the company said.

In response, Aiya Hsu, a member of the Green Citizens' Action Alliance, said the Japanese also thought they had a safely designed plant.

"The Fukushima nuclear incident last year taught us that the risk of nuclear power is simply too high and it is not something that humans can control or predict even with the best preparations," Hsu said.

"Taipower's remarks showed that both the company and the government have not truly reflected on the safety of nuclear power."

Indigenous Dao people performed a play to symbolize getting rid of nuclear waste, or what they called "evil spirits," from Orchid Island.

Outside the Presidential Office, writers and artists also read poems, gave speeches and sang songs to support the anti-nuclear cause.

A similar rally was held simultaneously in Taichung, and a prayer event was held in Kaohsiung in the evening.

(By Christie Chen)