Taiwanese protesters rally for ‘nuclear-free’ island

Government has promised to phase out nuclear energy by 2025

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 March, 2018, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 March, 2018, 5:54pm

Hundreds of anti-nuclear protesters staged a rally in Taiwan on Sunday to demand the island’s government honour its pledge to abolish the use of atomic energy by 2025.

Waving placards reading “nuclear go zero”, and “abolish nuclear, save Taiwan”, they gathered outside the presidential office in Taipei on the same day Japan marked the seventh anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.

Taiwan’s cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council recently decided to allow state-owned energy company Taipower to restart a reactor at a facility near Taipei, pending parliament’s final approval.

The reactor has been offline since May 2016 after a glitch was found in its electrical system, which the company said had since been resolved.

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Anti-nuclear groups are now questioning whether Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will keep its promise to phase out nuclear energy.

“It would be violating the spirit of creating a nuclear-free homeland by 2025 pledged by the DPP,” said Tsui Shu-hsin of the prospect of restarting the reactor. Tsui is the spokeswoman for the Nuclear Go Zero Action Platform, which organised the rally.

Lawmaker Huang Kuo-chang, head of the opposition New Power Party, echoed the sentiment.

“The government should move forward, not backwards and restarting the reactor would be a regression,” he told reporters at the rally.

Taiwan currently generates about one-fifth of its energy from three nuclear plants.

Even though there were massive power failures across the island in August last year, many Taiwanese remain adamantly opposed to nuclear energy.

In 2014, authorities were forced to seal off a nearly completed fourth nuclear plant after public opposition.

“I would rather the government restrict the use of electricity than relying on nuclear energy which is unsafe and generates a lot of waste,” 22-year-old university student Yao Hsing-yu said.

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Taiwan started annual anti-nuclear rallies to commemorate Japan’s nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011, when the Fukushima energy plant was hit by a tsunami following an earthquake, knocking out power to its cooling systems and sending reactors into meltdown.

Taiwan, like Japan, is prone to frequent quakes as the island lies on a number of fault lines.

“Nuclear facilities are unsafe as Taiwan has many earthquakes,” 40-year-old protester Fan De-lu said. “The government needs to take the lead to actively develop alternative and green energy.”