Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2015
By Kelly Lundeen
On March 14, around 45,000 activists gathered across major cities in Taiwan to oppose nuclear power, marking the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima-Daiichi triple reactor disaster. The island-wide mobilization marked the third year in a row that tens of thousands of anti-nuclear activists have taken to the streets in a movement that has been galvanized by the Fukushima meltdown. Like Japan, Taiwan is located near the tectonically-active “Ring of Fire.” Concerned about a similar disaster, environmental, human rights, aboriginal, student, labor, workers’ and farmers’ organizations are demanding green energy and a Taiwan free of nuclear reactors. Pieces of this dream could become reality if the government follows through on its pledge to phase-out nuclear power by letting licenses expire on the three operating reactor complexes and abandoning construction on a fourth.
Of the existing reactors, the oldest are scheduled for decommissioning by 2019 and 2023. The fourth reactor has been in planning stages since the 1980s, but its construction has run into continual setbacks. Last year, it was brought to a complete standstill and the reactor was sealed off as the government was forced to respond to strong public opposition. The reactor’s completion now depends on a public referendum expected within the next few years.
A 2014 World Nuclear Association report found that 55 percent of Taiwan’s population supported terminating construction and closing the reactor permanently. Taiwan’s government appears to be taking public opinion into account in view of its claims to have plans to put an end to nuclear power.
Every year since the Fukushima disaster, the size of nationwide protests has grown from thousands to tens of thousands, reaching 68,000 in March 2013. Activists have employed hunger strikes, sit-ins on high-traffic boulevards and railway stations, marches and other tactics. In the 2012 presidential elections, the popular opposition candidate made ending reliance on nuclear power a central issue. Even though the president—whose party had previously backed nuclear power—was re-elected, he recently backed away from his support of the nuclear industry. The halt to construction on the fourth reactor has been largely due to public pressure, exemplified again by the enormous outcry heard on March 14—although regionally this has not been the case.
Asia is considered to be the emerging market for investment in new nuclear power, and 11 countries in the region have or are developing plans to build new power reactors. Nuclear power promoters like the World Nuclear Association forecast that by 2030, 266 new reactors could be built across Asia. Of the projected $1.2 trillion to be invested in nuclear power worldwide, almost $800 billion of that could be in Asia.
Amidst multi-national corporate momentum toward more nuclear power in Asia, Taiwan is one of the few countries in which politicians have been responsive to the movements against it. And if millions of Taiwanese get their way, the country will join the ranks of Switzerland, Belgium and Germany and make a good-faith commitment to truly rid their home of nuclear power.
—Agence France Presse, Mar. 14, 2015 & Mar. 20, 2011; World Nuclear Association, Mar. 2015; World Nuclear News, Jan. 8, 2015; Green Citizen’s Action Alliance, 2015; Straits Times, Jul. 31, 2014; Reuters, Apr. 27, 2014; Bloomberg Business, Mar. 3, 2013; New York Times, Jan. 12, 2012; Taipei Times, May 1, 2011