Thousands call for scrapping of nuclear plants in Taiwan
Tens of thousands took part in a rally in Taipei yesterday calling on the government to heed the lesson of the Japanese atomic crisis and scrap the island's nuclear facilities.
Protesters waved placards and flags painted with slogans such as "No Nuke, No fear" and "No Nuke for Our Children" as they gathered in a square outside the presidential office.
Worries about Taiwan's atomic facilities have grown since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, crippling the nuclear plant at Fukushima.
"Like Japan, Taiwan is an island with many earthquakes and I think it is just too dangerous to build a new nuclear plant near Taipei," said high school student Lu Pei-ying.
The Taipei protest, which took place as three other rallies were held simultaneously across the island, drew an estimated 50,000 people, according to the group that organised it, the Green Citizens' Action Alliance.
Police estimates of the size of the crowd were not immediately available.
Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes. A tremor of 5.6 magnitude shook buildings in Taipei on Thursday.
Last month, Premier Jiang Yi-hua said for the first time that the government may support holding a referendum on the future of the fourth atomic plant - under construction since 1999 and still not completed - amid growing public concern.
Organisers of the rally urged the government to immediately slam the brakes on the plant and move to completely stop using nuclear energy.
"It is unnecessary to hold the referendum as public opinion opposing nuclear energy is evident in many recent surveys. The government should terminate the nuclear project without further ado," said one of the organisers, Joanna Feng.
More than half of Taiwan's public want construction of the fourth nuclear plant, near Taipei, to be halted due to safety concerns, according to two surveys released on Thursday.
The three existing nuclear plants supply about 20 per cent of Taiwan's electricity.
Construction of the fourth was originally due to be finished by 2004, but political wrangling has delayed the project.