May 2003

Cabinet okays law to phase out nuclear power

Taiwan News, 8 May 2003
By Dennis Engbart, Staff Reporter

Original address:

[Posted 09/05/2003]

The Cabinet approved yesterday a draft basic law to promote a "non-nuclear home" that would prohibit the development or use of nuclear weapons, mandate a gradual elimination of nuclear power plants and accelerate use of renewable energy resources.

Environmentalists welcomed the draft law's proposed prohibition on the development of nuclear weaponry, but expressed concern that the draft did not clearly offer a solution to the controversy over the fourth nuclear plant.

The bill was primarily drafted by the Non-Nuclear Home Promotion Committee, which was established October 11 under the National Commission for Sustainable Development.

The commission and the draft law emerged from a compromise Legislative resolution passed on February 13, 2001 that required the governing Democratic Progressive Party to resume construction of the bitterly controversial fourth nuclear power plant, but committed the conservative Kuomintang and People First Party to concur with the goal of a turning Taiwan into a non-nuclear home.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun said the draft bill aimed to allow that "all our citizens and their descendants can be free of the threat of nuclear weapons and the danger of radiation and to create a living environment of peace, security and sustainable development."

The draft basic law would require future governments to abide by several key policy principles, including commitments not to develop nuclear weapons, to gradually cease nuclear power generation, to rationally adjust Taiwan's overall energy supply and demand strategies, to develop and promote renewable energies, to ensure nuclear radiation safety and properly treat and store radioactive waste materials.

The draft law also includes a procedure for the decommissioning of existing nuclear power plants that would mandate a cessation of generation after each nuclear reactor unit reaches a certain level of gross output in kilowatts.

Yu noted that the draft law emphasized that the process of accelerated decommissioning of Taiwan's nuclear power plants would include guarantees for the work rights of affected employees and reduce the impact on society and the economy.

Under the procedure, the operating agency, at present the state-owned Taiwan Power Co, would be responsible for proposing a decommissioning plan, including provisions to safeguard the work rights of employees, to the Cabinet three years in advance of the forecast plant closure date and secure approval for the plan at least a year in advance of closure.

The draft law would also oblige the government to immediately report any accidents involving nuclear facilities to the people and to responsible international agencies, such as the International Atomic Energy Commission.

Operators of nuclear facilities would be fully responsible for any loss of life, physical injury, health, property or environmental damage and responsible for publicizing any such damage, no matter what the cause.

But the article also would require the government to cover any shortfall in total damage compensation if the operator is unable to do so.

The bill would also require all levels of government to actively include autonomous civic groups in the formulation of non-nuclear home related policies.

The draft bill would also establish a commemorative "Non-Nuclear Home Day" on February 13.

Taiwan Watch chairman Chang Kuo-lung told the Taiwan News that "the Taiwan government has declared that it would not develop nuclear weapons many times, but to legislate such a commitment will carry more weight internationally."

But Chang said the draft "has little immediate significance for Taiwan society as it does not offer a clear indication of whether the fourth nuclear power plant will be built, which is the most pressing issue for the anti-nuclear movement, and it may even be a means to get people to accept the fourth nuclear power plant."

"We advocate holding a referendum to allow the people as a third party resolve this issue over which the governing party and the opposition parties remain deadlocked," said Chang.

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