Taiwan Cabinet scraps 2025 nuclear-free target

In response to pro-nuke referendum, Taiwan's Cabinet agrees to abolish the 2025 goal to make Taiwan a nuclear-free country

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Nuclear waste storage facility.

Nuclear waste storage facility. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Cabinet today announced that in accordance with the results of Proposition No. 16 passed in the nine-in-one elections on Nov. 24, it has agreed to abolish the goal it had previously set of making Taiwan a nuclear-free country by 2025, instead opting to make it a more long-term objective.

The pro-nuclear referendum, Proposition No. 16, asked whether voters agree to repeal a paragraph in Article 95 of the Electricity Act, which states that "all nuclear-energy-based power-generating facilities shall cease to operate by 2025." The referendum passed with 5,895,560 (59.49 percent) voting in favor, while 4,014,215 (40.51 percent) voted against the initiative.

Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said at a press conference today that during a meeting, the Cabinet had agreed to delete Article 95-1 of the Electricity Act, and that the proposal would be sent to the Legislative Yuan for consideration, reported CNA.

Kolas said that during the meeting, Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) stated that the government's goal of promoting a non-nuclear homeland remained unchanged, but the deadline will be canceled, according to the report.

The 2025 Non-Nuclear Homeland goal was a policy President Tsai Ing-wen had pledged during the 2016 presidential election. The original goal was to eliminate nuclear power by 2025, while raising the percentage of renewable energy and natural gas to, 20 percent, and 50 percent, respectively, and lowering the use of coal to 30 percent.

However, it appears that the public was not well informed about the composition of Taiwan's current energy mix, with a survey by the Risk Society and Policy Research Center finding that 44 percent of Taiwanese erroneously believe that the majority of Taiwan's energy needs are provided by nuclear power plants. In fact, nuclear power only accounted for 8 percent of Taiwan's electricity supply in 2017.

The survey also found that the 2025 goal itself was not well understood by the majority of respondents, with only 41 percent of respondents being aware of the target, while 57 percent stating they are not clear of the policy goal.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's oldest operating nuclear plant, the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City, ceased operations yesterday (Dec. 5) and has officially begun the decommission process. The plant was commissioned in 1978, one year before the Three Mile Island accident, which resulted in the release of approximately 2.5 megacuries of radioactive gases and 15 curies (560 GBq) of iodine-131 into the environment in the northeast U.S.