Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-01-16 12:14 PM
Four members of the Japanese Diet and an accident investigator expressed their displeasure at Taipower’s failure to allow them to visit a nuclear plant on Friday. The four legislators, members of the anti-nuclear power organization Zero Nuclear Power in Japan, were told that their planned trip to one of Taipower’s three nuclear plants would be ‘temporarily delayed.’
In a press conference Wednesday at National Taiwan University Alumni Hall, Congressman Shoichi Kondo of the Democratic Party said it is essential to have a free exchange of news and information on nuclear power plants and the group was extremely unhappy at the rebuff from Taipower.
A Taipower spokesperson said the power company’s decision not to allow the Japanese lawmakers to visit a plant on Friday does not necessarily mean they are not welcome, saying the group had not followed proper procedures in applying for permission to visit.
Taipower executives stressed that in every country around the world where nuclear power is used, visits to power plants are strictly controlled and monitored. The officials said if the Japanese guests formally apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) through the Interchange Association, Japan’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, and inform Taipower of the purpose of their visit, they will consider the application. They explained that in line with the "interests of both nations" they want to avoid trouble and will be happy to offer full diplomatic courtesies to the visitors. They pointed out that last year former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan was very cooperative an arranging a visit, and Taipower was honored to have him visit its facilities.
Zero Nuclear Power is a non-partisan organization established last year on the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. It currently boasts 67 full members and more than a hundred associate members from eight different political parties as well as independent members of the Japanese Diet. Its stated goal is putting an end to nuclear power generation in Japan.
Taro Kono, a Liberal Democratic Party Congressman and president of Zero Nuclear Power, described how in the 1960s nuclear power enjoyed strong support in Japan. For many years, he noted, the Japanese government, politicians, the media power companies touted the enormous benefits of nuclear energy. They were all lying, said, Kono, and until the Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred many Japanese were indifferent to the dangers that nuclear power presents. He said his organization wants the people of Taiwan to know that "We hope that Taiwan will not repeat the mistakes of Japan."
Kono noted that although he has long been opposed to nuclear power, there are many in his own Liberal Democratic Party who are staunch advocates of nuclear power, and he is constantly under pressure to tone down his statements on zero nuclear power.
Tomoko Abe, an independent diet member who is also a pediatrician, noted that the Fukushima nuclear disaster brought tragic consequences for more than 360,000 people in northeastern Japan. She said it is estimated that up to a third of children in the region could fall victim to thyroid cancer due to the nuclear incident. She added that those who have experienced the nuclear disaster want to see that such a calamity never happens again.
Zero Nuclear Power consultant and former Komeito Party senator Kato Shuichi explained that while his party views nuclear power as an outdated technology and advocates a gradual phasing out of nuclear energy, he is the only one in the party who is really completely anti-nuclear. Kato acknowledged that he understands that Taipower was "worried about the safety of foreigners," but said it is unacceptable that they should refuse to let them visit, in a move apparently meant to limit the access of the outside world to information about the plants.
Tanaka Mitsuhiko, an investigator for the Diet who worked as an engineer at a nuclear power plant in Japan for nine years, said that relying on nuclear power is dangerous and that problems are bound to occur in nuclear systems. Currently working with a committee checking into the design of the containment structure at Fukushima, Tanaka said nuclear power carries with it the potential for disaster. He said that the same applies to nuclear safety in Taiwan, noting that "it’s all a big gamble."
Chen Hung-mei of the Japan-Taiwan Association to Say Goodbye to Nuclear Power in Earthquake-prone Countries, which extended the invitation to the Japanese lawmakers to visit Taiwan, pointed out that Taiwan could soon be the only country in the world to have a nuclear power plant located only 23 kilometers from the national capital. This in why members of the Japanese zero-nuclear organization feel they have an obligation to visit and inspect nuclear power plants in Taiwan. She noted that Japan and Taiwan are very closely-linked neighbors, and citizens of both nations should rightly be concerned about each others’ welfare.
One notable aspect of the press conference was the gathering of reporters and photographers from the Japanese media. Spotted among the onlookers were representatives from the Kyodo News service, the Mainichi News, the Asahi Shimbun, the Jiji Press, the Japan Industry News and the Sankei Shimbun, several of which sent the head of the local branch office to cover the event.