l Just two weeks into the presidential primary, Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), also a contender, set off domestic debate on the safety of nuclear power and the future of nuclear plants in Taiwan with her statements on making Taiwan “nuclear-free” by 2025.
l Because of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility accident, there’s been heightened awareness within Taiwan on: (1) the safety of the four—three in operation and one under construction—nuclear power plants in Taiwan, (2) the precautionary measures that the government has taken in case of an accident, and (3) the necessity of continued use of nuclear power on the island.
l Because of the upcoming legislative and presidential elections, however, the ongoing debate on nuclear safety has been easily politicized, and again, it has become a matter of position, not science.
l Like many places around the world, the issue of nuclear power has always been controversial in Taiwan. Because of the rising electricity demand during the years of economic takeoff, nuclear power has always been an important source, which now constitutes roughly 12%, of Taiwan’s electricity supply.
l With heightened concern over environmental protection in the 1970s, however, there have been many protests—big and small—throughout the island against the continued use of nuclear power on the island. The nuclear controversy reached a feverish point in June 2000 when then-President Chen Shui-bian (CSB) made the surprise decision to suspend the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, which proved later to be politically costly for both the DPP and CSB.
l In a recent meeting with local press, Tsai put forth plans to make Taiwan a "nuclear-free homeland" by 2025, which sparked criticisms from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and her rival in the DPP, former Premier Su Tseng-chang. As Tsai later tried to clarify her position that “a nuclear-free homeland by 2025” was fundamentally different from the abrupt suspension of construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in 2000, she plans to announce concrete, substantive steps would lead to a "nuclear-free homeland" by 2025.
l It is believed that Tsai will propose measures to increase the supply of non-nuclear power, make the use of electricity more efficiently, reduce electricity consumption and waste, and gradually lower Taiwan's reliance on nuclear power.
l No matter who wins the ongoing debate over nuclear power, or who captures the DPP presidential nomination, the controversy surrounding the continued use of nuclear power in Taiwan will likely remain a crucial issue in the coming presidential campaign.
l While some believed Tsai’s proposal of a “nuclear-free homeland” was both premature and impractical, it nevertheless raised public concerns over not just the necessity for the continued use of nuclear power, but a coordinated national energy policy that would, among other things, encourage the use of alternative energy and conduct frequent review of nuclear power safety at the different plants.
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