Taipei, March 30 (CNA) It is not easy at all for the government to decide whether or not to have nuclear power plants, a visiting U.S.-based psychologist and Nobel prize winner said Saturday. "Opinions are divided," said Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli-American psychologist who was invited by the Commonwealth Publishing Group to give a speech on people's thinking behind making decisions in Taiwan. After noting that he really does not want to take a public position in a political issue, Kahneman, a winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, said what the government should pay attention to is public fear. "The public can be afraid of things without any reasons," he said, citing a panic toward pesticide residues found in apples. The 79-year-old psychologist said making a decision could be a dilemma, as the government believes in democracy and wants the public to decide, while basically such an issue is a technical problem -- a matter of assessing the risks and the benefits. Ovid Tseng, a distinguished research fellow at the Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institution, echoed Kahneman's views, noting that making any decision should be based on evidence. "More and more people are evidence-blind, and criticize and even make decisions irrationally," he said, urging the public to think thoroughly before making any decision. Tseng's remarks came amid a suggestion by the government that Taiwan should use a referendum to decide the fate of its controversial fourth nuclear power plant. Taiwan is facing increasing public concerns over whether the island's fourth nuclear power plant should be completed. These worries have galvanized opposition to the use of nuclear power in Taiwan, culminating in nationwide anti-nuclear rallies, one of which drew an estimated 200,000 people earlier this month. New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu said at a panel discussion that the government has made it clear that there will be no nuclear energy in Taiwan unless safety can be guaranteed. In addition, he said, although people consider nuclear energy to be cheap, it is better to calculate the cost of handling the nuclear waste. The government should also better communicate with the public to close the gap between the official forecast and real goal, he added.
On March 28, the Cabinet released 14,000 copies of a handbook that gives information on the nuclear power plant, with the aim of allowing the public to gain a better understanding of the issue. The information in the handbook says that the government will gradually reduce Taiwan's dependence on nuclear power and will develop renewable energies, as part of its goal of eventually creating a nuclear-free homeland. (By James Lee)