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Nuclear power not our option

Nuclear power not our option

The decision by the new Kuomintang Cabinet last week to approve a new "sustainable energy policy program" that aims to promote Taiwan's transition into a "low energy intensity" and "low carbon economy" is a commendable sign that the KMT is finally taking the crisis of global warming seriously.
After years of objection while in opposition to the setting of explicit carbon dioxide reduction targets, the KMT now advocates a drive to return to 2008 levels of carbon emissions by 2020 and to return to the level of emissions in 2000 by 2025, in part by expanding the share of "low carbon" energy sources of total electricity power output from 40 percent at present to 55 percent by 2025.
Unfortunately, behind this rhetoric lurks the shadows of a deceitful drive by KMT technocratic ideologues to revive nuclear power as the core of Taiwan's future energy policy under the "low carbon" banner.
The new program specifically mandates that "nuclear power will be considered a zero-carbon option" and the policy decision issued by KMT Premier Liu Chao-shuian that completion of the controversial Nuclear Four facility will be "accelerated" so that its two 1,350-megawatt reactor units can come on line late next year.
Environmental Protection Administration Minister Shen Shih-hung stated Thursday that "nuclear power is a method to deal with carbon dioxide, but is the last resort," but this fig leaf was discarded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs as a spokesman admitted that the MOEA is "evaluating" a fifth nuclear power facility and by the statement of a Taiwan Power Co spokesman that there was room at the Nuclear Four site in northeast Taiwan for up to 12 more nuclear reactor generating units.
It is apparent that the KMT sees the rapid expansion of Taiwan's nuclear power capacity not a "last resort" but as a priority program in yet another example of its proclivity to allow its technocratic ideology "to drive policy."
Neither clean or cheap
If the KMT was sincere in its adoption of a "low-carbon" philosophy," then the KMT-controlled Legislature should long ago have allowed the passage of several laws proposed by the former DPP government to achieve this vision.
The most egregious example is the draft law for the encouragement of renewable energy use, which was introduced into the Legislative Yuan over six years ago, whose passage would have allowed the promotion of enough renewable energy capacity to cover a new nuclear power facility without the risks and with greater employment benefits.
The KMT's revival of the hoary claim that nuclear power is a "low-cost" or a "'zero carbon option" is based on willful blindness to the highly polluting and dangerous "front-end" processes such as uranium mining, refining and nuclear fuel processing and massive "back-end" costs of plant decommissioning and permanent storage of high-level wastes, not to mention the US$5-plus billion price tag for taxpayers for each nuclear reactor unit.
The KMT government's program also betrays what has now become a chronic lack of consistency by demanding that energy policy be tailored to meet the acceleration of economic growth rates to a very high six percent annual pace while calling for modest increases in energy efficiency and a capping of carbon dioxide emissions.
We must consider the opportunity cost of investing billions upon billions of US dollars in nuclear power and adding to the dangerous and permanent stockpile of high level nuclear waste in our island country, the risk of which is multiplied by the fact that we are living on one of the most seismically active territories on Earth.
The fundamental solution to Taiwan's energy and carbon emissions problems requires mostly action the demand side, especially structural adjustment of our industrial structure.
For example, environmentalists estimate that over 83 percent of the alleged annual carbon dioxide reduction of 18 million tons claimed for Nuclear Four could be realized simply by vetoing plans by the Formosa Plastics Group to build a steel refinery on the Yunlin coast.
Taiwan society would benefit far more if the huge public funds that the KMT plans to sink into the nuclear power swamp would be invested into renewable energy sources, cleaner energy generation technologies and the encouragement of industries and services that offer high-value added with low, zero or even negative carbon contribution.
Last but not least, the KMT's planned revival of nuclear power involves our human and environmental rights.
Since the KMT ticket did not even mention plans for a "nuclear renaissance" in their campaign, the new KMT government does not have an automatic mandate to reverse the decision made by a bi-partisan legislative majority in early 2002 to adopt a "non-nuclear home" vision in the Environmental Basic Law.
We therefore support the position of the Nuclear Four Referendum Promotion Association that the question of whether to allow the controversial Nuclear Four facility to enter commercial production should be ratified by the people of Taiwan through national citizen referendum and urge that any future plans to build new nuclear reactor units should also be subject to ratification by citizen referendum.


Updated : 2021-04-15 17:09 GMT+08:00