ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Legislature places Taiwan power plant on ice
Publication Date : 27-02-2013
Taiwan's Legislature agreed yesterday to freeze construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, until its fate is put to a national referendum.
After hours of cross-party negotiations, lawmakers ruled to shelve debates on the plant's budget and called a halt to all work on the plant besides safety testing.
No construction such as fuel rod installation is permitted on the project until a national referendum, according to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng.
Ruling and opposition caucuses will both commission professionals to oversee the halt.
Project manager Taipower responded that they respect the Legislative Yuan's decision.
Earlier this week, Premier Jiang Yi-huah called for a national referendum on the controversial public project. If the Legislative Yuan adopts the plan, a referendum can be held as early as July.
Earlier yesterday, some lawmakers were at work devising questions for the referendum.
The Kuomintang (KMT) caucus will allow three to five of its legislators to submit different questions within the next few days, in the interest of regional equality and fair representation, said KMT Secretary-General Lai Shyh-bao.
“Specific phrasings are still under review,” but all versions will share a design: Questions will ask voters if they support shutting down the construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
The fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant may come down to semantics. Under the KMT's proposal, work on the plant will continue if the referendum fails due to low turnout. Since 2004, Taiwan has conducted six national referendums, all of which were rendered invalid due to low turnout.
Meanwhile, the major opposition party was drafting its own referendum bill.
The referendum question should be designed to terminate construction if voter turnout doesn't meet thresholds, said former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen.
Taking up Tsai's proposal, DPP Legislator Kao Jyh-peng has drafted the question, “Do you believe the government should complete the construction of Taipower's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City's Gongliao District?”
A national referendum is valid only if over 50 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot. That means 9,150,000 voters must cast a ballot, said a DPP staffer yesterday.
“We didn't need 9 million voters to pick a president, who now steers major national policies like the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant,” said the staffer on condition of anonymity.
“Why is it that when the people choose a political candidate they only need a simple majority, but when it comes to important policy, they need an absolute majority of all eligible voters?” the source continued.
Earlier yesterday, the DPP caucus had boycotted the opening session of the Legislative Yuan, calling for an amendment to the Referendum Act and the immediate halt to plant construction.