Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou wants nuclear safety info from IAEA

Lawmakers to visit 4th nuclear plant

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – President Ma Ying-jeou told a visiting International Atomic Energy Agency official Thursday that he hoped the body could allow Taiwan to participate in meetings and to obtain the latest information about nuclear safety.
Nuclear energy is likely to become one of the main political issues this year as the government prepares to complete the fourth nuclear plant in Gongliao, New Taipei City, and opponents campaign for a referendum on the project.
Former French Nuclear Safety Authority President André-Claude Lacoste, who has been chosen to chair the IAEA’s nuclear safety meeting next year, received a request for support from Ma at the Presidential Office Building.
The president said nuclear safety was an issue which crossed borders and therefore warranted cooperation and the sharing of information by all concerned. He said that if the IAEA supplied Taiwan with the latest data, the domestic nuclear industry would be able to upgrade its safety.
Ma expressed the hope that as a veteran of France’s nuclear safety establishment for more than 20 years, Lacoste could provide advice on how to go about setting up an independent and effective body to manage nuclear safety. He repeated government assertions that there could be no nuclear energy without nuclear safety.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang had invited him Thursday for a visit to the fourth nuclear plant to increase his understanding of the project. Wang said that after the Lunar New Year holiday, he would take a delegation of lawmakers and reporters on a tour of the site, which is also known as the Longmen plant.
Shih said there was still a long road to go before power could be produced at the plant with safety measures to be certified by the IAEA before fuel rods could be installed, according to Wang.
State utility Taiwan Power Corporation was reportedly planning to apply for permission to install the rods within the next year, reports said. Since New Taipei City approved regulations for local plebiscites last summer, campaigners have been collecting tens of thousands of signatures for a referendum on the fourth nuclear plant.
Two of Taiwan’s already operating three nuclear plants are also situated on the north coast in New Taipei City.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which supports the referendum campaign, wants Taiwan to become nuclear-free by 2025, but the government and Taipower warn there is insufficient alternative energy to avoid price hikes and power shortages.
New Taipei City Mayor Eric Liluan Chu, a prominent member of Ma’s Kuomintang, has also made statements emphasizing the need for strict safety rules before the plant can be allowed to operate, but he has stopped short of supporting the referendum campaign.