Dealing with nuke issues not easy: Nobel laureate


TAIPEI–It is not easy at all for the government to decide whether or not to have nuclear power plants, a visiting U.S.-based psychologist and Nobel economics prize winner said Saturday.

“Opinions are divided,” said Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli-American psychologist who was invited by the Commonwealth Publishing Group to give a speech on people’s thinking behind making decisions in Taiwan.

After noting that he really does not want to take a public position in a political issue, Kahneman, a winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, said what the government should pay attention to is public fear.

“The public can be afraid of things without any reasons,” he said, citing a panic toward pesticide residues found in apples.

The 79-year-old psychologist said making a decision could be a dilemma, as the government believes in democracy and wants the public to decide, while basically such an issue is a technical problem — a matter of assessing the risks and the benefits.

Taiwan is facing increasing public concerns over whether the island’s fourth nuclear power plant should be completed. These worries have galvanized opposition to the use of nuclear power in Taiwan, culminating in nationwide anti-nuclear rallies, one of which drew an estimated 200,000 people earlier this month.

The Taiwanese government has reiterated that safety is central to its policy of using nuclear power, and that it will only allow the fourth nuclear power plant to begin operations after it has been proven safe.

On March 28, the Cabinet released 14,000 copies of a handbook that gives information on the nuclear power plant, with the aim of allowing the public to gain a better understanding of the issue.

The information in the handbook says that the government will gradually reduce Taiwan’s dependence on nuclear power and will develop renewable energies, as part of its goal of eventually creating a nuclear-free homeland.