Taiwan approves plans for a referendum to revive contested 4th nuclear plant

Vote could take place in August 2021

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The fourth nuclear plant in Gongliao, New Taipei City.

The fourth nuclear plant in Gongliao, New Taipei City. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Central Election Commission (CEC) on Friday (December 13) approved a proposal to hold a referendum on the revival of the contested fourth nuclear plant following four decades of controversy.

The government stopped the project in the New Taipei City district of Gongliao on the island’s north coast in 2000, only to resume its construction one year later. Following a round of massive protests in 2014, inspired by the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, plans to complete the power station were finally abandoned.

Last year, state utility Taiwan Power Corporation started shipping unused fuel rods back to the United States, marking a further step toward an end for the project.

However, a group of supporters saying the dangers of nuclear energy have been misrepresented started a petition action for a nationwide referendum on the issue.

They handed 375,417 signatures to the CEC in October. On Friday, the election body announced the valid number of endorsements amounted to 307,903, exceeding the required legal minimum of more than 280,000, the Liberty Times reported.

As a result, plans for a referendum can move forward, though no specific date has been mentioned yet. The organization of 10 referendums on the same day as the nine-in-one local and regional elections in November 2018 caused problems at voting booths, leading to calls for separating referendums from elections.

August 28, 2021 has been named as the earliest possible date the vote might be held, according to the Central News Agency.

Nuclear energy has proven unpopular due to the threat of earthquakes and other natural disasters, as well as the need for space to store nuclear waste. The current administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) wants Taiwan to become a nuclear-free homeland in 2025.