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Taiwan still on track to become nuclear-free, despite pro-nuclear referendum

Anti-nuclear group undeterred by passing of pro-nuclear referendum  By Wu Hsin-yun, Ku Chuan and Evelyn Kao Taipei, Nov. 25 (CNA) Taiwanese on Saturday voted against the government’s policy of phasing-out nuclear power by 2025, prompting an environmental group opposed to nuclear power to reaffirm its support for the phasing out of all nuclear power plants.

The anti-nuclear group National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform said in a statement issued Sunday that it is wrong to return to nuclear power and promised to continue to campaign for an end to the use of nuclear power in Taiwan.

The statement came after Taiwanese voted in 10 referendums alongside Saturday’s local government elections, including one that asked: “Do you agree with abolishing the first paragraph of Article 95 of the Electricity Act, which means abolishing the provision that ‘all nuclear-energy-based power-generating facilities shall cease to operate by 2025’?”

As a result, 5,895,560 votes were cast in favor of repealing the nuclear phase-out, and 4,014,215 against the initiative, according to the Central Election Commission.

For a referendum to pass, the number of voters in favor of a proposition must exceed the number who vote against it, and reach a minimum of 4,939,267 votes, or one quarter of the 19,757,067 voters eligible to cast votes in the referendums.

Commenting on the referendum result, the anti-nuclear group said that not all those who voted in favor of stopping the nuclear phase-out are unconditional supporters of nuclear power, but rather some lack confidence in Taiwan’s energy transformation.

The result does not mean those who voted in favor of repealing the nuclear phase-out do not support the government’s nuclear-free, carbon reduction and renewable energy policy, the group said.

Currently, the decommissioning of the No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants in New Taipei is underway and cannot be reversed according to the law, the group said.

The result of the referendum is most likely to impact the No. 3 nuclear plant in Pingtung and possibly postpone its decommissioning, it added.

However, as the No. 3 nuclear plant is near the active Hengchun fault line, the group said the geological environment is not suitable for extending the operational life of the nuclear plant to be or installing new units at the plant.

Taiwan can not withstand a nuclear disaster and the passage of the referendum does nothing to guarantee safety, the group noted.

The group stressed Taiwan is on the path to a nuclear-free homeland and carbon reduction and should not return to nuclear power and coal-fired plants.

Under the Referendum Act, a law repealed in a referendum has to be rescinded three days after the result is officially announced by the Central Election Commission, Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said Sunday.

This means the first paragraph of Article 95 of the Electricity Act will be removed.

However, “the government’s goal of making Taiwan a nuclear-free homeland by 2025 remains unchanged,” Kolas said, adding that in practice it may not be possible to postpone the phase-out of the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 nuclear plants.

According to the law, applications for postponement are required to be submitted 5-10 years before the scheduled retirement dates of nuclear plants, Kolas said, adding that any such applications cannot be made within the statutory time period.

As to whether the currently-mothballed No. 4 nuclear power plant will start commercial operations, Kolas said it is estimated any such reversal would take 6-7 years and cost NT$68.8 billion (US$2.22 billion).

Even if the nuclear plant is activated in 2019, it would not be ready to begin commercial operations in 2025, when the government’s goal of a nuclear-free homeland will be achieved, at which point Taiwan will have no need for nuclear power, she noted.

November 25, 2018 - Posted by | politics, Taiwan

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