Historic Responsibility for Referendum on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 26, 2013
Summary: The KMT and DPP must not be allowed to stop or continue work on the 4NPP based on 2014 or 2016 political calculations. They must make their 4NPP referendum decision based on considerations of national security and historical responsibility. The referendum must be preceded by certification that the 4NPP is safe.
Full Text below:
On February 23, this newspaper published an editorial entitled, "Professionalism and Politics: Two Facets of the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant." The article pointed out that the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant (4NPP) must be professionally certified as safe. A public referendum may be politically necessary. But if professionals can certify that the 4NPP is safe, a public referendum is superfluous.
The Jiang Cabinet decided that given widespread chaos, it would halt construction on the 4NPP and call for a public referendum. It failed however to clarify whether the 4NPP was safe. Instead, it hurriedly called for a public referendum in August. Today it announced that outside experts will conduct a comprehensive review of 4NPP safety on April 2. If passes muster, they will certify it as safe. The inspection is expected to take six months. The results should be available by early October. As we can see, the previously planned August referendum failed to take this into account. The certification of the 4NPP, as well as the public referendum can be conducted according to the procedures recommended in this newspaper's Febuary 23 editorial.
the nuclear power debate involves essentially two positions. One is categorical opposition to nuclear power. Another is support for the continued use of nuclear power, predicated upon assurances of nuclear safety. In other words, no one is demanding that the 4NPP be put into operation if it is found to be unsafe. Therefore if the safety of the 4NPP cannot be confirmed, a referendum is superfluous. This appears to be the Executive Yuan's position.
Should work on the 4NPP be stopped or continued? The answer must take into account nearly 100 billion NT in investments. Will it be all for naught? It must also take into account the role of energy in our national security strategy. One must not underestimate the impact on the nation's survival. Therefore if the safety of the 4NPP has yet to be confirmed, a responsible government must not arbitrarily call for a referendum. Conversely, if experts can certify the 4NPP as safe, a responsible government must provide the public with a clear accounting. The public, after all, still supports "safe nuclear power." In other words, they support nuclear power as long as it is safe.
If experts cannot certify that the 4NPP is safe, then a referendum is superfluous. A referendum may not solve the problem even if experts certify the 4NPP as safe. One. Any expert certification will lead to a "Believers still believe, unbelievers still don't" outcome. Two. Nuclear power has become a political football. It will never find resolution.
This is why some DPP and KMT officials oppose any sort of referendum, and instead demand an immediate halt to construction. But such a demand is both anti-intellectual and un-democratic. First of all, experts have yet to determine whether the 4NPP is safe. Therefore demanding an immediate construction halt is anti-intellectual. Secondly, making a decision so critical to the nation's future without first seeking a referendum, is un-democratic.
Therefore, a referendum remains the best possible solution to an impossible problem. 4NPP problems need to be tackled in sequence. 1. First experts must certify that it is safe. 2. If it is found to be unsafe, a referendum is superfluous. 3. If experts certify it as safe, then we can hold a referendum.
If experts certify it as safe, we can then hold a referendum. The voter turnout must be as high as possible. Voter turnout must meet the one half of all eligible voters threshold. Some supporters of "safe nuclear power" feel that a low voter turnout, in which fewer than half of all eligible voters turn out, will defeat a construction halt. It will ensure that construction continues. But politically speaking this would be the worst possible result. It would hand those who oppose construction the perfect justification for continued protest. If voter turnout meets the one half threshold, and the result is a construction halt, it will at least reflect the will of the people. The people must work together for the future. Conversely, if the result is to continue construction, anti-nuclear sentiment may not die down. But supporters of "safe nuclear power" will at least have been heard, and will at least have had their wishes realized.
Therefore we oppose KMT and DPP officials who oppose a public referendum and demand an immediate construction halt. 1. A referendum has a precondition. Experts musf first certify the 4NPP as safe. 2. Stopping or continuing work on the 4NPP is a national security issue of unparalleled importance. The KMT and the DPP cannot arbitrarily decide whether to stop or continue work on it. They must allow the public to vote.
So-called "safe nuclear power" exists. The 1NPP, 2NPP, and 3NPP are concrete examples. If experts certify the 4NPP as safe, the next step is to clarify where the KMT and DPP stand on whether to stop or continue work on the 4NPP. Stopping or continuing work on the 4NPP is a national security issue that bears on Taiwan's future. Historical responsibility for this policy decision must be made clear. Following a public referendum, "members of the public" will disappear into the crowd. Therefore the political parties must be held responsible. In other words, we must first hold a pre-referendum policy debate. The political parties must put their policy positions on record.
The KMT and DPP must not be allowed to stop or continue work on the 4NPP based on 2014 or 2016 political calculations. They must make their 4NPP referendum decision based on considerations of national security and historical responsibility. The referendum must be preceded by certification that the 4NPP is safe.
2013.03.26 03:03 am