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Ex-VP Lu backs Su on timing of anti-nuclear referendum

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Former Vice President Annette Lu yesterday threw her support behind Su Tseng-chang's poorly received bid to hold an anti-nuclear power referendum with next year's local elections.

Earlier this month, Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang proposed holding the referendum with the election, courting criticism from the Kuomintang and within his own party. Opponents from both parties accused Su of using the nuclear power issue to manipulate the local “seven-in-one” elections. In response to the controversy, Su softened his proposal, announcing that the timing of the referendum is up for debate.

Lu defended Su yesterday in a Taipei press event.

“Some people have been unfair to Su Tseng-chang,” said Lu. “Bundling referendum and election was the consensus of anti-nuclear energy civic groups.”

Bundling the two is not a “political gambit” but a purely practical consideration related to progress of the signature drive, according to Lu.

Surrounded by sheaves of signatures, she said her drive for a local referendum against Nuclear Power Plant Number Four has collected over 40,000 names so far, which meets a first-stage requirement. The drive must next collect a total of 150,000 signatures to meet the second-stage requirement for staging a local referendum.

Lu said she could meet that threshold by Feb. 1, 2014, but that the lengthy registration process means the referendum cannot occur until next August at the earliest.

“August is just months before the local seven-in-one elections,” she said. If the referendum were held just before the election, the nuclear power issue may be masked by the din of the local campaigns. Moreover, postponing the referendum until Election Day has the added benefit of cutting costs, according to Lu.

“So why not hold them together?” said Lu. “My considerations are based on the petition's progress — not politics.”

Also yesterday, Lu announced a plan for petitioners to rally before the Presidential Office on May 20. By then the drive should have collected at least 80,000 signatures — if not 100,000, she said.

Nuclear Plant Number 4 has drawn opposition from Lu and other activists because of safety concerns and alleged irregularities in construction.

Impact on Reserves: Taipower

Ending construction on the nuclear plant would cut Taiwan's electricity reserve margin by half, said the state-run Taiwan Power Co. (台電) yesterday.

Taipower said that Taiwan's three existing nuclear power plants are on the path toward decommissioning by 2025. If the fourth plant were scrapped, Taiwan's reserve margin is set to drop to 7.4 percent by 2015.

The target reserve margin is 15 percent, which means that the electricity system should have excess capacity of 15 percent of expected peak demand.

Nuclear power accounted for 19.3 percent of its total electricity production in 2010, according to Taipower statistics.

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