News / Asia

Anti-Nuclear Energy Activists Becoming More Vocal in Taiwan

Protesters march during an anti-nuclear demonstration in Taipei, Taiwan on March 9, 2013.
Protesters march during an anti-nuclear demonstration in Taipei, Taiwan on March 9, 2013.
Ralph Jennings
— A wave of mass street protests in Taiwan has prompted the island’s government to reconsider a fourth nuclear power plant. Demonstrators at concerts and elsewhere this past weekend said the plant would threaten inhabitants of Taiwan’s north coast.

About 220,000 people turned out for loud, emotional demonstrations in Taiwan’s three biggest cities to ask that the government stop plans for the island's fourth nuclear power plant. They were the largest protests since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008. 

Safety concerns

The demonstrators said they are worried a catastrophe similar to Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown two years ago could occur on the island.

Lee Yi-chun, a 40-year-old software engineer from Taipei, says she joined a demonstration on Saturday because she fears a nuclear accident.

She says the first issue is consideration of a disaster much like that in Japan.  She says the Japanese plant had gone through a rigorous inspection and its management was not bad, but that does not mean an earthquake or tsunami will not cause damage or suddenly cut electricity to the plant, leading to a meltdown.

Taiwan's fourth nuclear plant has already felt its share of shocks. Government-run Taiwan Power Company started work on it in 1999.  The semi-official Central News Agency says it has spent about $9.3 billion on construction. In 2000, public opinion led Taiwan’s government to halt work on the power station, which is near one of northern Taiwan’s most popular beaches. But the legislature ordered the project to resume a year later. Ma’s government had tentatively planned to start operations last year.

Economic need

Taiwan has few of its own fossil fuel sources and hopes nuclear power will reduce dependency on sometimes costly imports. There have been no nuclear accidents in Taiwan and the power company has pledged that the fourth plant will be safe. Nuclear energy contributes 12 percent to the island’s total power generation capacity.

Lin Hung-chih, deputy secretary-general of the ruling Nationalist Party’s Central Policy Committee, says Taiwan cannot afford to hold back on nuclear power, especially for industrial use, as long as the island lacks other energy sources. He wants Taiwan to join France, South Korea and other countries that rely heavily on nuclear power.

He says that, without nuclear safety, there would be no fourth nuclear plant.  He questions what the island will use to replace the energy that would be provided by the fourth plant.

Protesters becoming more vocal

Taiwan’s protests against nuclear power were muted, before the Japan earthquake of 2011. When the first three nuclear plants began coming online in the 1970s, citizens accepted them as part of Taiwan’s fast economic development. Today, two plants operate alongside public beaches, attracting thousands of tourists.

But the Japan meltdown raised the intensity of anti-nuclear protests and environmental activism in Taiwan.

Taiwanese officials who face tough elections every two to four years have studied the idea of converting the fourth nuclear plant to a thermal one but say that shift would cost another $3 billion. The Taiwanese news agency says today’s cost already exceeds earlier estimates, because of suspected corruption, budget inflation and challenges by environmental groups. 

New Taipei City, where the plant is based, is urging people to speak out and the central government to listen. Last month, the government suggested putting the fourth nuclear plant to a popular vote.

Anti-nuclear activists plan to use weekend protest momentum to collect signatures for the referendum. Meanwhile, the government is trying to convince the public of the nuclear plant’s safety.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: G.R.L. Cowan from: Canada
March 14, 2013 10:39 AM
Government-bought astroturf. Even with that big of a paymaster, not enough sellouts could be found for the camera to be able to pull back.


by: Vicky Chung
March 13, 2013 8:33 PM
Taiwan is not only an island, it is a country.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid