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Talk of the Day -- Polls find most people favor halt to 4th N-plant

2013/03/07 21:53:58

Anti-nuclear sentiment is rising amid a government plan to hold a referendum to decide the fate of the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, local media reports said Thursday.

The results of a series of public opinion polls released in recent weeks consistently show that over half of respondents favor halting construction of the almost complete power plant in Gongliao, New Taipei, the reports said.

Some analysts were quoted as saying that recent campaign by activist groups to stage anti-nuclear parades in major cities around Taiwan this weekend have helped fuel a rising tide of anti-nuclear momentum.

The following are excerpts from local media coverage of relevant topics:

China Times:

Up to 62 percent of people responding to a telephone poll conducted by this paper Monday evening said they support halting construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

Only 21 percent of the respondents said they firmly support continued construction of the plant.

Meanwhile, 68 percent endorsed the government's decision to hold a referendum for local voters to give a say on whether construction of the almost complete plant should be halted.

The survey also found that many local people are worrying about nuclear safety, with 59 percent said they feel none of the country's nuclear power plants in operation or under construction is safe.

In contrast, 9 percent said they feel the country's four nuclear power plants are safe and 32 percent said they cannot judge whether the plants are safe or not.

Poll results further showed that local people are divided on several hotly debated issues such as whether scrapping the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant would lead to hikes in electricity prices or increase the risk of power rationing or adversely affect Taiwan's economic growth.

State-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) -- the operator of the country's nuclear power plants -- has warned that local electricity prices will go up by at least 40 percent if construction of the fourth plant is halted and the three plants in operation are decommissioned as originally scheduled.

According to poll results, 45 percent agree with Taipower's argument, while 33 percent disagree and 23 percent said they couldn't forecast future scenarios at the moment.

As to whether scrapping the fourth plant project would enhance risk of power rationing, 44 percent said they foresee such a possibility, but 41 percent said they do think so on the ground that power rationing is just one of Taipower intimidating strategies.

The poll also found that 9 percent of those who originally supported halting the fourth plant or did not answer the question would shift to support completion of the project after being briefed on the possible negative effects such as power rationing or slower economic growth.

As a result, the percentage of those who support halting the project would decline 2 percent to 60 percent while that of those who want continued construction of the plant would surge 7 percent to 28 percent.

The survey collected 761 valid samples, with a 95 percent confidence level and a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points. (March 7, 2013).

Liberty Times:

Fifty-four percent of respondents to a survey conducted by a local business weekly threw support behind the proposal to halt construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, while 23 percent gave a thumbs-down to the proposal and 23 percent said they remain neutral on the issue.

Business Today commissioned Shih Hsin University to conduct the telephone survey from Feb. 28 to March 3. The results were published in the magazine's latest issue which hit bookstore shelves Thursday.

The poll found that 64 percent thought that Taiwan's nuclear power plants are unsafe.

As high as 74 percent said they are opposed to appropriate an additional budget of NT$40 billion (US$1.35 billion) for completing the controversial fourth nuclear plant, while only 14 percent gave a nod the budget request.

A majority of 77 percent questioned the plausibility or credibility of Taipower's argument that without nuclear power generation, electricity prices will jump 40 percent.

Moreover, 50 percent said the fourth nuclear plant should be scrapped even if electricity price would go up as a result.

A total of 1,071 valid samples were collected in the Business Today survey, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The survey findings are similar to those found in polls conducted by Taiwan Indicators Survey Research on Feb. 27 and by TVBS on Feb. 28.

In the Taiwan Indicators poll, 59.6 percent favored halting the project and 26.1 percent opposed such a proposal, while TVBS survey showed that 58 percent supported scrapping the project but 27 percent saw otherwise. (March 7, 2013).

(By Sofia Wu)