Subject: [cwj 119] Taiwan Nuclear Plant Under Fire
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000 12:53:07 -0700
Seq: 119

Taiwan Nuclear Plant Under Fire
Tue 26 Sep 2000 

KUNGLIAO, Taiwan (AP) - Aoti Village is a warren of rundown buildings with
a fine beach, fresh seafood, quiet
streets, picturesque hills - and two massive concrete holes in the ground
that most residents don't want. 

It's the construction site of Taiwan's fourth nuclear plant, which has
sparked intense debate as newly elected
President Chen Shui-bian tries to decide whether he'll honor a campaign
pledge and spike the project that's
about one-third finished. A final decision is expected by the end of the
month after a special economic
committee announces its recommendation. 

Proponents have long argued that the plant in northern Taiwan is urgently
needed for national security and to
help fuel continued economic growth. They also argue that ditching the
project would be a tremendous waste
of taxpayers' money. 

But opponents argue that Taiwan is incapable of storing the waste, and the
plant would threaten the
environment, which has already been polluted by decades of policies that
emphasized industrial growth over
all else. 

``We're all afraid the waste will contaminate our waters and threaten our
livelihood,'' said Hong Huang-feng, a
spokeswoman for the 6,000-strong Kungliao Fishermen's Association, which
campaigns furiously against the

The choice is difficult for Chen. His Democratic Progressive Party's
platform calls for scrapping the plant.
But he risks losing credibility among foreign investors if his four-month
old government calls off the project.
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Boston-based Stone and Webster
Engineering Corp. and General Electric
Co. are supplying the two 1,350-megawatt boiling water reactors. 

If Chen supports the project, he will appear to have given up his ideals in
the face of political expediency, said
lawmaker Shen Fu-hsiung, a key policymaker in Chen's party. 

``If the government decides to build, Chen will be embarrassed. If not, the
storm will focus in the legislature,''
Shen said. 

To abandon the project, Chen will have to present his case to the
legislature, where his party only holds
one-third of the seats. Lawmakers with the Nationalist Party, which
approved the plant in 1980 when it
controlled the presidency, are likely to support the plant. 

Taiwan Power Co. has already spent close to $1.6 billion, and will spend
another $1.23 billion to finish the
project, said Huang Huei-yu, a company spokeswoman. 

The total cost of roughly $5.4 billion was approved by the Nationalists,
which lost the presidency to Chen in
March, and the first of two reactors would open in 2005. The second reactor
would open the year after. 

When the embattled plant reaches full output, it will add 2,700 megawatts
to Taiwan's 23,763 megawatts of
installed capacity, Huang said. An output of two megawatts is capable of
lighting as many as 400 homes. 

If scrapped however, the state-owned Taiwan Power Co. will lose a whopping
$2.6 billion in dismantling the
site and terminating contracts with foreign companies. 

Taiwan imports 97 percent of its total energy needs, and if China ever made
good on its threats and forced
Taiwan to reunify after 51 years of estrangement, the most logical option
would be to form a naval blockade
and cut off Taiwan's oil supply, said Chung Chien, a nuclear physicist at
the National Tsinghua University. 

``It's a matter of national security. Not having the plant is like
committing suicide and telling the enemy you're
vulnerable,'' Chung said. 

But residents of Aoti Village care little about the politics. For them, the
most urgent issue is the danger of
radioactive waste being stored in their own backyard. 

Already, about 96,000 barrels of low-level radioactive and other industrial
waste from Taiwan's power plants
are being stored in the outlying Orchid Island, and residents there have
complained that the waste containers
are showing signs of corrosion. 

Chung estimated that 20,000 more barrels of low-level radioactive waste
would be produced from the fourth
nuclear plant, and the company has identified another outlying island close
to mainland China as a storage site.

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