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Nuclear power has no place in Taiwan

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The public must be confused as to whether it is appropriate to restart construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District of New Taipei City (貢 寮).

The site has been sealed for a long time and the fuel rods have been shipped overseas. So why is a referendum necessary on whether to restart construction of the shelved plant?

The truth is, the factory has become something of a political ATM. If a political party wants to make it an issue for its own political benefit, it resuscitates the debate.

However, not only is restarting construction of the plant inappropriate, it is imperative that the government remains committed to its policy of achieving a “nuclear-free homeland”.

There are three reasons why it is not appropriate to restart the build:

First, with the development of any source of energy, the protection of life and property is paramount.

For Taiwan, a densely populated nation in an earthquake-prone area, if there were to be a nuclear accident, people would have to evacuate quickly. The harm and fear that such an event would cause are hard to imagine.

Second, from a purely economic point of view, the construction of the plant, which began in 1999, has already cost more than NT $ 283.8 billion (US $ 10.2 billion) and the facilities that have been added up to two decades ago. Many components have degraded and no longer work.

If construction is to be restarted, these components would have to be replaced, a process that would take a lot of time and money – roughly, at least a decade and NT $ 80 billion.

It is questionable whether this process would be sufficient to supply the energy needs necessary for Taiwan’s rapid development.

Third, there is the issue of environmental justice. Where to store nuclear waste? No one offered a satisfactory answer to this question. No one would agree to have the garbage near their home.

In the past, environmental justice was not taken seriously, but that does not mean that this state of affairs should continue.

Restarting the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant would be dangerous, uneconomical and unfair.

Would Taiwan suffer from power shortages if it continued to move towards a non-nuclear homeland? This is the baseless argument advanced by pro-nuclear groups.

According to electricity production figures in a report by Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) this year, the proportion of electricity produced from nuclear sources has declined over the years, providing only 12.7% of the electricity of the country last year.

If Taiwan could increase the percentage of renewable energy sources to 20% of the total energy mix by 2025, nuclear power would no longer be a problem.

Moreover, if the percentage of renewable energy sources continues to increase, as expected, Taiwan would no longer need nuclear energy.

The world has come to a consensus that the way to mitigate climate change is to reduce carbon emissions. Countries around the world are demanding net zero emissions by 2050, and Taiwan is also committed to that goal.

While aiming for this ambitious goal, it is also essential that the government considers national security, energy self-sufficiency and the development of sustainable energy sources.

Consequently, we must concentrate our energies on the development of renewable energies to achieve a green transition, and nuclear energy is not participating in it.

In the interest of environmental sustainability, many Taiwanese companies have joined the global RE100 initiative to achieve 100% electricity from renewable sources by 2050. Again, nuclear power is not part of the plan.

In response to the rapid changes and challenges of international political and economic trends and the energy environment, the world is going through a critical period of energy transformation.

Green energy technologies and the development of energy conservation are the main drivers of this transition in the world. Even though the development of renewable energy sources is difficult, it is up to nations to rise to the challenge and to assume their responsibilities to future generations.

It is also the means for Taiwan to truly become a “green island” nation.

Pan Wei-yiu is general secretary of the Northern Taiwan Society.

Translated by Paul Cooper

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