Gov’t rejects referendum on fourth nuclear plant

The China Post staff

The government yesterday decided against holding a public vote on the fourth nuclear power plant project, winning applause from opposition parties, but sparking outrage from environmentalists. Cabinet Secretary-General Chiou I-jen apologized to environmentalists as he announced that the government would not hold a so-called “consultative plebiscite” over the fourth nuclear power plant project. Premier Chang Chun-hsiung accepted the government ad hoc nuclear assessment task force’s suggestion that a plebiscite may bring about uncertainties to society, and is therefore unadvisable. The nuclear power plant project sparked tremendous controversy last year when Chang made an abrupt decision to halt the partly completed plant in the coastal town of Kungliao, Taipei County. Earlier this year the premier yielded to opposition pressure and resumed the project, but hardliners within the Democratic Progressive Party have been pressing him to hold a plebiscite to gauge the public opinion of the issue. The hardliners obviously hope that the results of the vote, if in line with the DPP’s anti-nuclear stance, might give them ammunition in their next round of actions to kill the project, observers said. Former DPP Chairman Lin I-hsiung, the anti-nuclear standard bearer within the party, reportedly received the news with calm but said firmly that he would not accept the decision not to hold the plebiscite. DPP Legislator Chou Po-lun expressed “disappointment, regret, and shame” over the decision. He said he could not accept that rationale that the nuclear project should be continued so as to boost the economy. Construction on the plant has been revived for more than two months, but the economy has continued slumping, he said. Premier Chang and Secretary-General Chiou should step down for the decision, Chou urged. Residents at Kungliao were also angry. The township chief, Chao Kuo-tung, said he was disappointed by the “incompetent” government. Please see NUKE on page

A leading environmentalist, Pan Han-chiang, said anti-nuclear activists would meet to decide how to respond to the government decision.

But the news of not holding a plebiscite was mostly well received. Vice President Annette Lu said the row should now come to an end, as the present political situation should see as fewer disputes as possible.

DPP legislative whip Tsai Huang-liang said their caucus would respect and support the government’s wise decision, which he said was in line with the people’s wish. He said that the surveys separately conducted by the DPP, the Cabinet and lawmakers have shown that most of the people do not support holding a plebiscite. The opposition parties also lauded the Cabinet’s move. “It’s very good,” said Kuomintang legislative whip Lee Cheng-chong upon hearing the news. He said the Cabinet has finally made a wise decision, allowing the controversy to die down. He urged the government to speed up construction of the plant and help contractors secure bank loans. Some contractors reportedly have run into financial difficulties as a result of the delayed construction. People First Party legislative convener Chou Hsi-wei also said it was a wise decision that would help stabilize politics. He said he hoped that all disputes over the power plant would come to an end now, and that there would be no more dissent arising from within the DPP. Elmer Fung, deputy convener of the New Party legislative caucus, said the government finally showed remorse over the waste of millions of dollars and months of time it has incurred during the suspension.