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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs