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Taiwan’s nuclear dilemma – a return to authoritarian past?

flag-TaiwanTaiwan’s Nuclear Future and Authoritarian Past The intense debate in Taiwan over nuclear power has echoes of a less democratic past. The Diplomat, By Brent Crane May 21, 2014  Last August, chaos erupted in Taiwanese parliament. Opposing lawmakers thrust hard-clenched fists at one another while fervent activists tossed opened water-bottles from the stands like Molotov cocktails. Politicians and otherwise civilized men wrestled like teenage boys on the floor amid shouts, screams and camera flashes.

The Legislative Yuan had initially assembled to discuss the conditions of a national referendum deciding the fate of Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant in Gongliao, New Taipei City. The controversial plant, known ominously throughout the country as Nuke 4, remains a rallying cry for opponents of one of Taiwan’s most charged political subjects: nuclear power. The debate has been energized in recent weeks after former opposition party leader and staunch nuclear energy opponent Lin Yi-hsiung went on hunger-strike in protest of the government’s unwillingness to make concessions with Taiwan’s antinuclear lobby. On the surface, the conflict appears rather black-and-white: it’s the safety-conscious, environmentalists and academics versus the pragmatic economists and government bureaucrats. But the nuclear power debate in Taiwan is about much more than just safety and economics. It’s about reconciling Taiwan’s autocratic past with its democratic present……….

On the Taiwanese political front today, only reunification is as hotly debated as nuclear energy. The antinuclear camp, which polls suggest finds support from up to 70 percent of the 23 million Taiwanese, advocates full denuclearization of the island. Simply put, their biggest beef with nuclear power in Taiwan is that it poses too great a safety risk. The disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 represents the type of nightmare scenario that antinuclear activists conjure up when they denounce the energy source. After all, Taiwan is highly prone to typhoons, tsunamis and earthquakes. In late September 1999, for instance, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake killed 2,415 people in central Taiwan, injuring more then 11,000. Last September, Typhoon Usagi left Taiwan with 35 dead and with more than $4.33 billion in damages. The list goes on. And Taiwan’s compact size ensures that any plant destruction or malfunction on the scale of the Fukushima fiasco would be disastrous for the island, whose densely packed urban centers are never too far from any of the country’s four plants.

Yet despite the risks, the ruling KMT party remains firmly pro-nuclear, and has proven resilient in weathering the antinuclear storm. ……In true Jeffersonian fashion, the electorate, though hollering at an often unresponsive government, are demanding that their voices be heard. And with the ebb and flow of the youth-led Sunflower Movement, a government accountability project akin to Occupy Wall Street, Taiwan’s political atmosphere has been particularly energized lately………

Opposition to Nuke 4 has galvanized tens of thousands of Taiwanese to hold demonstrations throughout the country in recent years. Clearly, the anti-nuclear camp is no longer a fringe element. On the contrary, opposition to nuclear power has become a household inclination, with some studies showing 55 percent to 70 percent of the population anti-nuclear………

Of course, shifting an entire country from autocracy to democracy is no easy task. But Taiwan’s nuclear energy debate is a reminder that its transition isn’t yet wholly complete.


May 23, 2014 - Posted by | politics, Taiwan


  1. Did it posted at all? This is obviously another CAREFULLY MONITOR web site that cater to ANTI-NUCLEAR view point!! =/

    Comment by Taiwanese Guy | May 27, 2014 | Reply

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