Nuke vote meaningless without access to facts: critic

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The proposed referendum on the fate of Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is meaningless because the public is denied the facts behind the controversial project, a critic said yesterday. The public is like a group of blind men trying to figure out what an elephant is like, said Ma Kai, an economist who heads a nonprofit group promoting social responsibility.

“Someone touches the tail and says the elephant is like a rope; another touches the leg and says it’s like a pillar,” Ma said, alluding to a famous story about truth. “Some people support ‘rope’ and some other support ‘pillar,’ and they hold a vote. This is the referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant,” he added.

Ma said information about the controversial nuclear power plant has been coming solely from Taipower, which the people do not trust. He faulted the Economics Ministry for giving Taipower the mission of trying to convince the public of the benefits of the new plant over the past 30 years, without realizing that the state-run utility firm cannot be trusted because of its status as being both player and referee. “The referendum is meaningless because the whole nation has been denied their rights to fully understand the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant,” Ma told reporters on the sideline of a forum in Taipei. The government has decided to hold a referendum on the fate of the plant, but has warned that a lack of electricity because of the termination of the project may impact Taiwan’s economy. Tu Tzu-cheng, a researcher from the government-sponsored Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), described the nuclear power dispute as a matter of confidence, and the termination of the project may not have too much of an impact on Taiwan’s economy, according to the Central News Agency. But Tu, who heads ITRI’s research on knowledge economy and competitiveness, said there could be a domino effect if the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project is halted.