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Talk of the Day -- Battle looming over Fourth Nuclear Power Plant

2013/02/14 21:10:52

Premier Sean Chen will hand over the reins of the Cabinet to successor Jiang Yi-huah on Feb. 18, and the new legislative session will begin on Feb. 26.

Ranking party and Cabinet officials are predicting that Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, which is still under construction, could be the first major battleground of the new political season.

Senior government officials have already started to work on the coordination process within the ruling Kuomintang on the issue, and President Ma Ying-jeou and Jiang will also make important statements at a coordination conference on Feb. 25.

The following are excerpts from United Daily News reports on the issue:

A Cabinet official said the government mapped out a strategy on the issue prior to the Lunar New Year.

Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang invited Legislature Speaker Wang Jin-pyng to lead legislators to visit the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao, New Taipei, and distributed position papers to them in support of the controversial project.

The Economics Ministry also invited the media for a visit, public relations work that will also be a priority for Shih's successor in the new Cabinet, Chang Chia-juch.

The official said Jiang has already repeatedly stressed the importance of coordination and communication, and he is expected to ask the Cabinet to hold more public hearings on nuclear safety, arrange related visits, and offer more information on nuclear power.

State-run utility Taiwan Power Company, which runs the nuclear power plant, will apply to the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) in February 2014 to load fuel rods in the plant's first reactor in July 2014 and begin commercial operations in October 2015.

A draft bill on structural reforms to the AEC, which will be called the Nuclear Energy Safety Commission in the future, should be cleared in the new legislative session, the official said.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has designated March as "Anti-nuclear Energy" month.

The party believes that the launch of an alliance of mothers monitoring nuclear power plants on March 8 and a demonstration calling for the end of nuclear power generation in Taiwan on March 9 will spark discussion on the issue and provide momentum for a nuclear-free homeland bill sponsored by the party in the Legislature.

"It will require the Legislature and society to oppose the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant," DPP Legislator Cheng Li-chiun said.

The plant, which began construction in March 1999, will enter a crucial year in 2013, according to Cheng.

The issue's other battleground will be New Taipei.

Former Vice President Annette Lu has initiated a referendum drive in the municipality to oppose the new plant's test runs and has already collected more than 40,000 signatures endorsing the plan.

The collected signatures will be sent to a New Taipei government referendum review committee for review.

One DPP politician believes that the KMT will not dare support the commercial operation of the new nuclear power plant given its current state.

The issue could continue to rage until nationwide local government elections are held at the end of 2014, the DPP politician said. (Feb. 14, 2013)

(By Lilian Wu)