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Talk of the Day -- Battle lines drawn over 4th nuclear plant

2014/04/21 21:11:33

Anti-nuclear rally in Kaohsiung Monday.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has drawn up battle lines over the nearly complete fourth nuclear power plant in New Taipei.

In line with an announcement by former DPP Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung -- who enjoys high stature within the party whose members sometimes refer to him as a saint -- that he will embark on an open-ended fast and sit-in to implore the government to stop construction of the controversial plant, the DPP has adopted a multi-pronged approach, including a special clause on the project and seeking a dialogue with the ruling Kuomintang (KMT).

DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang has called on Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin and Premier Jiang Yi-huah to solicit their support over the issue. He will meet with New Taipei Mayor Eric Liluan Chu later this week.

On Monday, the DPP legislative caucus proposed a draft special statute that would overlook the current high referendum threshold -- which requires the participation of at least half the nation's eligible voters for a plebiscite to be valid and requires the support of at least half of those participants for a referendum question to pass. The statute would allow a referendum on the project to pass with a simple majority vote.

The DPP will also mobilize people in front of the Presidential Office April 26 to call for an immediate halt to the plant's construction.

The following are excerpts of major newspapers on the looming crisis concerning the fourth nuclear power plant:

United Daily News

Su announced April 14 his withdrawal from the race for the DPP chairmanship, ostensibly to avoid a further split within the party. Actually, he was seeking a way to bow out because of his lackluster performance in party reforms and his low approval rating over the past two years.

There is also speculation that he is biding his time, keeping his powder dry as the 2016 presidential election approaches.

Faced with the fact that his approval rating has always lagged behind that of former DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, Su seems to have found an outlet for his political life in the runup to the 2016 presidential election.

Some have lauded Su's withdrawal from the party chairman election as "selfless," but it might simply be the result of calculated maneuvering.

He has sensed public aversion toward political confrontation in the wake of the recent massive student protests and has therefore called for reconciliation between the ruling and opposition parties. This is also the reason for his visits to the Taipei and New Taipei mayors -- two local government heads who have been relatively friendly toward anti-nuclear groups.

Whether Su's initiative will help him substantively remains to be seen, but his recent moves have certainly afforded him the opportunity to occupy the party's moral high ground as the 2016 presidential race approaches.

Meanwhile, former Legislator Shen Fu-hsiung said the brewing storm over the fourth nuclear power plant should not be overlooked, as its magnitude could be more serious than the student protests.

Shen offered the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou a four-point solution to the crisis.

First, Ma should resign as KMT chairman and let New Taipei Mayor Chu take over the helm of the party, who will then decide how to deal with the party's lawsuit against Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng.

Second, Ma should announce a stop to the construction of the fourth nuclear plant.

Third, Ma should complete the trade-in-services and trade-in-merchandize pacts with China -- the follow-up to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) signed between the two sides in June 2010 -- and push for Taiwan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade blocs. He should not move toward cross-Taiwan Strait political dialogue during his term.

Shen said that in the wake of the far-reaching effect of the student movement, Ma is considered the person mostly likely "to tilt toward China and sell out Taiwan" and if he still thinks he can conduct cross-strait political dialogue during his term, he "has not estimated himself well."

Shen's fourth suggestion is to hold a national constitutional conference in the summer of 2015 that will have a constitutional system and cross-strait relations as its themes and the goal of establishing a national system acceptable to every political camp. (April 21, 2014)

China Times:

Both the opposition and ruling parties have listed "a nuclear-free homeland" as their ultimate goal, but the KMT is in favor of a gradual reduction in reliance on nuclear power, while the DPP advocates an immediate halt of construction of the fourth nuclear plant.

It would not be difficult to scrap the plant, but finding alternative energy sources would pose a problem. An immediate scrapping of nuclear power would lead to a 40 percent rise in electricity rates, as well as frequent electricity blackouts that could result in an industrial exodus.

The fourth nuclear power plant, although it employs newer technology and equipment, has raised doubts due to the hodgepodge manner in which the systems have been assembled. But does that mean the safety of the existing three nuclear power plants is any better?

Meanwhile, business leaders say that Taiwan has no energy resources and that nuclear power could be the biggest reliable source.

Wang Ying-chieh, chairman of the Taipei Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, has said that Taiwan is in no position to scrap nuclear power, opining that it is the only way to cut electricity costs and upgrade the nation's competitive edge. (April 21, 2014)

(By Lilian Wu)
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(Click here for stories before the debate on nuclear power was recently rekindled.)