Taiwan: Anti-nuclear activists move toward referendum

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Anti-nuclear activists handed 122,000 signatures in Friday in the first stage of moving toward a national referendum about the fourth nuclear plant.

After a hunger strike by former Democratic Progressive Party leader Lin Yi-hsiung earlier this year, the government more or less agreed to put the nuclear plant, now nearing construction in Gongliao, New Taipei City, on hold.

Taiwan Anti-nuke protest (file picture)

Taiwan Anti-nuke protest (file picture)

However, critics feel that the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou is not to be trusted and therefore want to put across a stronger message that the majority opinion in Taiwan opposes nuclear energy. At the time of Lin’s fast, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand an end to nuclear energy and to the fourth plant in particular.

The Taiwan Environmental Protection Union said Friday it had handed in 122,000 endorsements for a nuclear referendum to the Central Election Commission. The group said it wanted the vote to take place on November 29, the day of regional and local elections all across Taiwan.

The question on the ballot should be “Do you agree that the Taiwan Power Corporation fourth nuclear plant in New Taipei City should install nuclear fuel rods for a test run?” TEPU said.

The installation of the rods was a key step in the direction of having the nuclear plant start operations, and once it had happened, the risk of a disaster and the cost of stopping the process would increase significantly, according to TEPU. Such a move needed the approval of the public nationwide, the environmentalists argued.

The group called on the government to respect the right of the public to participate in policy-making and to proceed quickly with a review of the referendum request.

According to the existing Referendum Act, the group needed 90,400 endorsements for its proposal, or 0.5 percent of the 18 million citizens who were eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election.

If the CEC confirms it has received sufficient endorsements, the campaigners will need signatures from 5 percent of the 2012 electorate, or 904,000 people.

If the government’s review committee eventually agrees with the referendum, at least half of all eligible voters will have to turn out and cast their ballot if the result is to be accepted. The provision has long been criticized by a wide range of activists, who say it is too restrictive and undemocratic.

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