If nuclear referendum tomorrow, I’d vote against: Taipei Mayor
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-03-21 07:18 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – If there were a referendum about the fourth nuclear plant on Friday, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin said he would vote against.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah announced last month the government wanted to hold a nationwide referendum about the controversial plant, possibly before the end of the year.

The issues of how to handle nuclear waste and how to guarantee the safety of nuclear energy still left many people uneasy, so he would choose to vote against the project, the mayor told reporters Thursday. Hau is a leading member of the ruling Kuomintang, which on the whole supports the nuclear project, and is often mentioned as a potential contender in the 2016 presidential election.

Hau said he could understand that public opinion had turned strongly against the reactors now under construction in Gongliao, New Taipei City, about 40 kilometers from the center of the capital. Cost overruns, delays and safety worries even before the March 2011 Fukushima disaster caused concern about the future of the plant.

The state-run Taiwan Power Corporation, which builds and plans to operate the project, should reveal all problems as soon as possible in order to let both the public and the Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council know the true situation, Hau said. He also called on the government to speed up the invitation to foreign experts to come and review the plant’s safety, because only if safety was guarantee, did a referendum make sense.

Too many aspects of the construction of the plant had revealed problems, the mayor said. He named the already widely criticized handling of nuclear waste, with low radioactive waste stored on Orchid Island and the storage of more dangerous waste reaching saturation.

Hau’s comments came the day the opposition Democratic Progressive Party succeeded in rejecting a 2013 Taipower budget for the plant, though the KMT vowed to put the subject on the agenda again next week.

The referendum is expected to be held close to the end of the year, though many opponents of nuclear energy say the government should stop the project outright. Jiang has said that if the Cabinet does so without the approval of the Legislative Yuan, it might be violating the Constitution.

An estimated 220,000 people protested against the nuclear plant on March 9, in a nationwide event to mark the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.

Former Vice President Annette Lu has been spearheading a drive for a local referendum in New Taipei City about Taipower’s plans to install nuclear fuel rods at the first reactor in Gongliao.

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