Government halts fourth nuclear plant construction (update 2)

04/27/2014 09:20 PM

Taipei, April 27 (CNA) The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou and the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) agreed Sunday to halt construction of the country's controversial fourth nuclear power plant with immediate effect.

Construction of the plant's nearly completed no. 1 and no. 2 reactors will be halted. The no. 1 reactor, which is currently undergoing safety inspections, will not be brought online once the inspections are complete, announced Fan Chiang Tai-chi, head of the KMT's Culture and Communication Committee.

The Executive Yuan has also promised to convene a national energy conference as soon as possible "to ensure there will be no cause for worry over future power supplies," he said.

The two-point consensus was reached during a two-hour meeting among President Ma Ying-jeou, who doubles as KMT chairman, Premier Jiang Yi-huah and KMT mayors and magistrates, including Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, New Taipei Mayor Eric Liluan Chu and Taichung Mayor Jason Hu.

Shortly after the meeting, the premier visited a church in Taipei where former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung was staging a hunger strike to protest the plant. Jiang asked the pastor of the church to deliver the two-point consensus to Lin, who has been declining to receive visitors during his fast.

Whether the plant will be put into operation in the future will be decided by a national referendum, Fan Chiang said, adding that the timetable for the referendum should be decided by the public.

As for whether the KMT will agree to relax the threshold for the referendum, Fan Chiang said the issue is "not a part of the conclusion" of the meeting, although the participants gave their own opinions on it.

In the meeting, New Taipei's Chu told Ma he does not have confidence in the current fourth nuclear plant, said Lin Chieh-yu, head of New Taipei City's Information Department.

Even so, Lin said, the New Taipei mayor does not support a DPP-proposed special referendum statute solely for the plant and believes that discussions should return to the revision of the Referendum Act.

Chu told Ma that Taiwan's Referendum Act is stricter than international standards and has room for adjustment, Lin said.

The DPP proposed the special statute April 21 to bypass the current Referendum Act, which was put into force in 2006.

The act requires the participation of more than half of Taiwan's eligible voters for a referendum to be valid. Because of this threshold, six referendums that have been held so far on various issues have all failed to pass the barricade.

Other KMT mayors and magistrates, including Taichung's Hu, declined to offer their individual opinions on the issue after Sunday's meeting.

DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang said earlier that day that his party is changing its proposal for the special referendum statute to make the validity threshold "a yes vote by at least 25 percent of the total number of (adult) citizens in Taiwan."

This means that the proposed referendum to scrap the project would pass as long as 25 percent of all Taiwanese citizens of voting age, or nearly 5 million people, cast a yes vote.

Many saw the Sunday meeting as a change in attitude of Ma on the fourth nuclear plant, although some in the KMT believe that the results of the meeting were consistent with the party's previous stance.

(By Kelvin Huang, Sunrise Huang and Christie Chen)ENDITEM/J

Related stories:●April 27: Anti-nuclear protesters take to streets, paralyze traffic●April 27: DPP's concession on nuke referendum -- 25% of adult citizens●April 26: Anti-nuclear activists rally in front of Presidential Office

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

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