(June 9, 2000) After years of intense campaigning, the coalition of environmental groups was celebrating the outcome of the last elections in Taiwan, which resulted in the new government that was formed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
(531.5183) WISE Amsterdam - New Prime Minister Chen Shui-bian won the March elections. For decades now, his party had promised to scrap the Lungmen NPP project on environmental grounds, and phase out Taiwan's six operating reactors in 10 years. As could be expected, however, the DPP now seems to have withdrawn from its earlier firm statements. The state-owned Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) has been putting pressure on the new government to reconsider the promises, but environmentalists have been urging the DPP to honor its commitment.
The country's fourth nuclear station involves two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) with a total capacity of 2,700 MW. Taipower has already spent US$1.4 billion on the complex, situated only 35 kilometers northeast of the capital, Taipei, in Kung Liao Valley. With 18% of the country's generated electricity being nuclear, Taipower claims the new plant is necessary for the island's continued economic growth. Experts of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Association (TEPU) argue, however, that the growing demand for electricity could be met with a thermal power plant fueled with methanol or other recyclable fuels.
After publishing we received in an email some corrections from TEPU:
1. The March election in Taiwan is to select new PRESIDENT not Prime Minister. In Taiwan, the Prime Minister is named by the President.
On May 13, anti-nuclear groups supported by DPP legislators and Taipei County politicians, organized the biggest-ever demonstration against nuclear energy. Some 2,000 activists paraded through Taipei's streets and voiced their protest against the Taipower headquarters. Although it was urged to join the protest, the DPP leadership failed to attend. This was seen as a sign that the new government does not intend to scrap the project.
The government, sworn in on May 20 and already under terrific pressure from both environmentalists and the Taipower lobby, will most probably decide to organize a referendum on the future of the NPPs. This would be held after the release of a new study on "all costs", to be submitted by a reassessment panel called "NPP4 Reevaluation Committee", made up of government officials and environmentalists. This committee is expected to report to the government by September 2000. In the meantime, the new minister of economics, Lin Hsin-yi, ordered Taipower to indefinitely put off soliciting bids for remaining construction work on the controversial plant.
Taipower first proposed the building of the Lungmen plant in 1978. The start of the project was postponed several times due to a lack of demand for electricity in 1982, suspicion over nuclear safety, and the Chernobyl accident in 1986. But later, the construction was actively pursued. In May 1996, Taipower finally awarded the project to General Electric.
Earlier referendums on the project showed strong opposition to the project. In 1994, Kung Liao Valley residents voted 96% against the project, and the same year the Taipei County referendum resulted in a 89% no-vote. In 1996 a referendum was held in Taipei which led to a 53% vote against the plans, followed by a 1998 referendum in Ilan County with 64% votes in the negative. The results of these referendums were, however, ignored by the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party which has since been defeated at the elections.
- AFP, 2 May 2000
- Central News Agency Taiwan, 6 May 2000
- Nucleonics Week, 18 May 2000
- Email from Department of Atmospheric Sciences, National Taiwan University, 6 June 2000
Contact: Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), 5th Fl. No. 1-4, Lane 183-11, HerPing East Road Sect. 1, Taipei, Taiwan 106 Tel: +886-2-2393 7011; Fax: +886-2-2391 5997