Thousands join anti-nuclear rallies in Taipei, Kaohsiung

Taipei, More than 12,000 people took to the streets of Taipei and Kaohsiung on Saturday in marches against nuclear power, which were held in commemoration of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.

In Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen said before the march that as long as she and her administration remain in power, she will stick to her goal of a "nuclear-free homeland."

Taiwan's is at no risk of an electricity shortage, therefore, its fourth nuclear power plant will not be put into operation, she said, referring to the Lungmen plant in New Taipei, which was mothballed in 2015 amid public worry about nuclear disasters.

One of the policies of the Tsai administration is to phase out nuclear power in Taiwan by 2025.

The National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform (NNAAP), one of the organizers of Saturday's march, said it is urging the government to reduce coal consumption and replace nuclear power, which accounts for 10 percent of the total in the country.

The marchers were also calling for the fourth nuclear power plant to be shut down entirely, according to NNAAP spokesperson Tsui Shu-hsin One of the new referendum proposals will ask voters if they agree that until a repository for high-level radioactive waste is built and operational, there should be no construction, expansion, or lifespan expansion of nuclear power plants in Taiwan.

The second proposal will ask voters if they agree that the fourth nuclear power plant project should be abandoned and the site converted into a museum, research facility, tourist attraction or a base for the development of renewable energy.

Tsai Chung-yueh Deputy CEO of Citizen of the Earth, a local environmental organization, said consumers should consider the issue of nuclear waste management when using electricity produced by nuclear power.

High-level nuclear waste remains radioactive for at least 100,000 years, Tsui Shu-hsin said, adding that until a proper and permanent disposal site can be identified, nuclear power should not be an option.

Members of several civic groups also joined the marches, demonstrating a solar powered refrigerator in which they had cold beers and soda.

According to the organizer, the people are promoting two anti-nuclear referendum proposals to counter rising support for nuclear power after a pro-nuclear referendum was passed last November.

A 250-watt solar panel can run five energy-saving refrigerators, said Liu Chia-ni chief secretary at Ludi Community College, urging the government to expedite the use of solar energy.

Meanwhile, a number of pro-nuclear organizations mobilized their supporters to surround train and metro stations nationwide on Saturday, in support of referendums on running the fourth nuclear power plant and on increasing nuclear power to at least as much as coal-generated power by 2030.

Opposition Kuomintang Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin urged the government to start the fourth nuclear power plant in accordance with referendums that were passed last year.

In November 2018, Taiwanese voters supported a referendum that asked voters if they agree with the abolition of paragraph 1 of Article 95 of the Electricity Act, which stipulates that "all nuclear energy-based power-generating facilities shall completely cease operations by 2025."

The referendum results, however, have not affected the government's policy of achieving a nuclear-free homeland.

Citing opposition by local governments and the problem of nuclear waste disposal, Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin said in January that Taiwan will not extend the lives of its existing nuclear power plants, nor will it complete the mothballed fourth nuclear power plant. Among Taiwan's four nuclear power plants, the first reactor at the oldest plant in New Taipei was decommissioned in December 2018 after 40 years of service, the second reactor is expected to cease operations on July 15, 2019.

The third nuclear power plant is scheduled to halt operations by May 2025, and the second nuclear power plant in March 2023.

The Chernobyl disaster, which occurred in Ukraine April 25-26, 1986, was the worst nuclear accident of the 20th century.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel