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Taiwan opposition continues to block nuclear vote at Legislature
Government booklet threatens power shortages after 2015
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-04-23 03:08 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Opposition members again blocked a legislative session Tuesday scheduled to discuss the government-backed referendum about the fourth nuclear plant.

The vote about the referendum question proposed by ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Lee Ching-hua had originally been scheduled for last Friday, but members of the Democratic Progressive Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union occupied the speaker’s area, forcing a rescheduling for Tuesday.

As soon as the new session started, opposition lawmakers put banners and placards on the floor in front of the Legislative Yuan assembly hall. ‘Stop building the fourth nuclear plant, nuclear-free homeland, a birdcage referendum is fake democracy, stopping the fourth nuclear plant is not unconstitutional,’ some banners read.

The opposition has accused the KMT government of framing the referendum in such a way that construction of the plant in Gongliao, New Taipei City, will allowed to be completed. According to the existing Referendum Act, if not at least 50 percent of all eligible voters cast their ballot, the result will be null and void.

Lee’s question would ask voters ‘do you agree that the construction of the fourth nuclear plant should be halted and that it not be allowed to operate?’

Opponents of the plant want the government to declare a stop to the project without going through the expensive and risky process of holding a nationwide referendum, but the government claims this would be unconstitutional.

Cabinet spokeswoman Cheng Li-wun said that since the issue affected national policies, holding a nationwide vote was appropriate. Some activists, including former Vice President Annette Lu, have put their effort into collecting signatures for a local referendum in New Taipei City.

Anti-nuclear campaigners also gathered outside the Legislative Yuan building, many of them wearing black clothes, reports said. They walked around the block before staging a sit-in protest. Because opinion polls showed that more than 70 percent of the public opposed the fourth nuclear plant, there should be no referendum but an immediate order to stop the project, the campaigners said.

DPP lawmakers said they would be prepared to continue the boycott, while the TSU said all proposals about nuclear energy should come to a vote simultaneously. In addition to changes to the Referendum Act, an opposition proposal for a nuclear-free Taiwan by 2025 and a special law about nuclear reactors should also be discussed, the TSU said.

The DPP called on the KMT to respond to a promise it made earlier in the year to discuss amendments to the Referendum Act and to set up a review commission for the fourth nuclear plant within the Legislative Yuan.

The session was expected to be rescheduled for April 26, reports said.

In a booklet presented Tuesday morning, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said that if the fourth plant was not completed, the country faced the risk of power shortages after 2015 but especially from 2018.

The question-and-answer booklet about nuclear energy questions said the situation would be most severe in Northern Taiwan if in addition to the scrapping of the fourth plant the first and second nuclear plants would also gradually be taken out of operation. Even if power were brought over from Central and Southern Taiwan, it would not be enough to ward off problems, the MOEA said.

The booklet also reiterated a government claim that power rates would rise because alternatives to nuclear energy cost more. Officials emphasized that a repetition of the Fukushima disaster was highly unlikely in Taiwan. The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami which caused problems at the Japanese nuclear plant resulted in a rise of awareness about the dangers of nuclear reactors in an earthquake-prone country like Taiwan.

The government was planning to put 30,000 copies of the booklet at its regional administrative centers, while also posting it online.

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