Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2014
By Arianne Peterson
Taiwanese activists succeeded in forcing their government to halt construction of two new reactors at their country’s fourth nuclear power station April 27, after organizing several recent actions involving tens of thousands of anti-nuclear demonstrators.
The island of Taiwan is situated near the junction of two tectonic plates in the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” earthquake zone, which also encompasses Japan. Concern about the vulnerability of Taiwan’s nuclear power facilities has risen dramatically since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactors, and this concern led to action.
Following massive demonstrations marking the third anniversary of the March 11, 2011 Fukushima disaster, an alliance of anti-nuclear groups gave the government an ultimatum on April 21, saying that they would stage a continuous protest on Ketagalan Boulevard, a central Taipei thoroughfare, and besiege the Presidential Office Building until their conditions are met. On April 22, former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Lin Yi-xiong began a protest hunger strike. A series of events throughout the country supported the demand for an end to nuclear power, including student sit-ins, occupations of railway stations and civic forums. Protesters and their supporters wore yellow ribbons to symbolize the movement’s unity and ubiquity. Some university students even shaved their heads to show solidarity with the hunger strike.
More than 50,000 Taiwanese people took to the streets in Taipei over the following weekend, and on Sunday, April 27, President Ma Ying-jeou and others from his Kuomintang Party decided to seal the new facility’s first reactor after the completion of safety checks and immediately halt construction on the second. Premier Jiang Yi-huah personally delivered the message of the decision to Yi-xiong, expressing hope it would persuade him to end his hunger strike.
Construction began on Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power station in 1999. Its first reactor was finished and the second 91.5 percent complete when the decision was made. The project was halted once before, in 2000, for political reasons and has been significantly delayed. It was originally supposed to begin operating in 2004.
Taipower, the taxpayer funded state-run enterprise that owns the project, has spent $9.3 billion on the reactors so far. It claims the decision not to bring the two reactors online will force it into bankruptcy.
A final decision on whether the facility will begin operation will be made by a national referendum. The DPP has proposed a special statute to bypass the 2006 Referendum Act, which requires more than half of Taiwan’s eligible voters to participate in an election for a referendum to be valid. The DPP is calling for a change so that a “yes” vote by 25 percent of voting-age Taiwanese citizens would shutter the nuclear project for good. — ASP
— Agence France-Presse, Mar. 8; Taipei Times, Apr. 22 & Apr. 30;