Taipei, Dec. 11 (CNA) A petition to hold a referendum on activating Taiwan's mothballed No. 4 nuclear power plant has reached the legal threshold for the referendum to be held, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said Tuesday.
The commission added that it will submit the petition to a review Friday before making a formal announcement of the referendum details.
The plant, which was close to completion before being shelved in 2014, has become a focal point in the debate over nuclear power in Taiwan, with supporters lauding it as a remedy to issues such as poor air quality and rising electricity costs, while critics have warned of potential danger, citing the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan as an example.
In a November 2018 referendum, a 59 percent-41 percent majority chose to keep nuclear power in Taiwan's energy mix, voting to repeal a law that would have phased out nuclear power by 2025.
In May this year, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) complied with the referendum results by amending the law, but reaffirmed its opposition to activating the No. 4 nuclear plant and its support for phasing out nuclear power.
The opposition Kuomintang (KMT), in contrast, has proposed using nuclear power as a supplement to green energy.
According to the CEC announcement, the petition submitted by pro-nuclear activist Huang Shih-hsiu (黃士修) to activate the plant and open it for commercial operation has reached 307,903 valid signatures, putting it above the legal threshold.
Taiwan's Referendum Act states that a number equal to 1.5 percent of the voters in the most recent presidential election -- approximately 282,000 people based on 2016 turnout -- must sign a petition in order for a national referendum to be held.
Regarding the referendum date, recent amendments to the Referendum Act stipulate that the next one can occur Aug. 28, 2021 -- a date the CEC is expected to formally announce following its review.
The changes have been a subject of political controversy.
In late 2017, the Legislative Yuan pushed through legislation to relax the requirements for holding referendums, only to suffer major defeats when 10 referendum questions were included alongside the November 2018 local elections.
In June 2019, the government passed legislation mandating that referendum questions must be held in August, effectively separating them from national and local election dates and making it less likely that they will pass the eligibility threshold.
While the DPP argued that the changes were necessary to avoid a repeat of long lines at polling stations that occurred in 2018, the KMT protested that the government was creating obstacles following the string of defeats its policies suffered in the last referendum.