Fourth Nuclear Power Plant Demands Ruling and Opposition Party Cooperation
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
April 23, 2014
Summary: In 2000, the DPP halted construction. Retired President Lee Teng-hui, President Chen Shui-bian, and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng were forced to clean up the mess. Faced with a new Fourth Nuclear Power Plant controvery, the KMT must not forget past experience. Wang Jin-pyng once had to clean up the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant mess, and prevent a "nuclear explosion."
Full text below:
Should construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant be halted? Yesterday Lin Yi-hsiung began fasting in protest. He did not set a time limit. DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang shuttled back and forth. He met with Premier Chiang Yi-hua, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, and New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu. He also expressed a willingness to meet with President Ma Ying-jeou and deal with the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant issue.
In 1985 the Legislative Yuan Economic Committee approved the budget for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Since then, the ruling and opposition parties have flip-flopped on whether to complete construction. Almost 30 years have passed, but they have still not reached an agreement. In 2011, Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant experienced safety problems. Anti-nuclear sentiment surged. Last year Premier Chiang Yi-hua proposed a public referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. But the ruling and opposition parties in the legislature could not reach an accord. The referendum threshold was too high. Anti-STA protests prolonged the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant controversy. Anti-nuclear sentiment intensified.
Whether to halt construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is actually a multiple choice question, not a true or false question. The question is whether the ruling and opposition parties and the general public can reach an agreement. Are they willing to bear the cost of halting construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant? They will have endure a higher cost of living. Are they willing to tolerate higher prices? Are they prepared to do without the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant? Are they prepared to keep the First, Second, and Third Nuclear Power Plants in service longer than originally planned? Are they prepared to rely on alternative energy sources? We can choose to halt construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Or we can complete construction on it, but not put it into operation. That is a reasonable alternative.
When Su Tseng-chang met Chiang Yi-hua, he made two suggestions. One. The Executive Yuan would announce a halt to the project . Two. It would support the DPP's proposed special regulations for a Fourth Nuclear Power Plant referendum. The Executive Yuan would then announce a halt to the project. Chiang Yi-hua said the Executive Yuan cannot make such a decision by itself. He was correct. This made many people wonder whether Su Tseng-chang made such an illegal suggestion on purpose.
In October 27, 2000, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung announced a halt to the project. The stock market plummeted. The legislature convened an extraordinary session. It invoked the Council of Grand Justices' constitutional interpretation, which explained that an Executive Yuan halt to construction would be illegal. In other words, such an action would have been invalid. This forced the Executive Yuan to announce that it was resuming construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. In other words, the Executive Yuan cannot decide to halt the project.
Does the Executive Yuan support the DPP's proposed special regulations for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant referendum? The problem is that the threshold for a public referendum is too high. It has been criticized as a "birdcage" referendum. The DPP wants something similar to the Articles for to the Offshore Islands. It wants to lower the threshold for public referenda. A simple majority vote would decide whether to complete construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Also affected is the threshold for public referenda. In the end, just how low a threshold is reasonable? There is no need for special regulations for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant referendum. That is something that could be accomplished in one fell swoop. Amending the referendum law and lowering the threshold for public referenda, should not be done for the sake of a specific regulation.
Those who advocate amending the referendum law and lowering the voting threshold argue that the presidential election uses a plurality rather than an absolute majority. They argue that if an official as important as the president is elected by a merely plurality, why should the referendum law require a quorum consisting of half of the eligibile voters, plus an absolute majority? Why the need for this doubly high threshold? In fact of course, the original reason for such a high threshold was to avoid frequent reunification vs. independence referenda leading to political unrest.
Understanding the background for the original legislation makes it easier to sort out the context. Especially since Premier Chiang proposed a Fourth Nuclear Power Plant referendum last year, and the DPP proposed special regulations for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant referendum. One might say that the ruling and opposition parties already have a consensus on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant referendum. The problem is over the referendum threshold. That is why the ruling and opposition parties should consider this a last ditch measure. Amending the referendum law would lower the high threshold for reunification vs. independence referenda. Lowering the voting threshold for public referenda on ordinary public issues would resolve the dispute over "birdcage" referenda. It would also avoid the need for special regulations every time we hold a public referendum.
If there is a consensus on reducing the threshold for referenda, when should it be held? Su Tseng-chang fears being criticized for harboring a political agenda. He fears linking a referendum to a general election. On his own initiative he suggested delinking it with the seven in one general election. Since Su has made this gesture of good will, the ruling and opposition parties may wish to consider a referendum on nuclear power plant safety. This would be more professional and more responsible.
Of course without nuclear safety there would be no Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. If it cannot even pass security checks, we can bid the the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant farewell. We do not even need a referendum.
Finally, we appeal to ruling and opposition party politicians. Find your political conscience. Be responsible to history. Takethe Fourth Nuclear Power Plant issue, which has festered for 30 years, seriously. In 2000, the DPP halted construction. Retired President Lee Teng-hui, President Chen Shui-bian, and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng were forced to clean up the mess. Faced with a new Fourth Nuclear Power Plant controvery, the KMT must not forget past experience. Wang Jin-pyng once had to clean up the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant mess, and prevent a "nuclear explosion."
Ma and Wang must set aside their grievances for the time being.
2014年04月23日 04:10 中國時報 本報訊