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Cabinet open to referendum on No. 4 Nuclear Plant: Jiang

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) announced yesterday that the Cabinet is willing to accept a referendum on the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

Speaking at a meeting of Kuomintang (KMT) officials and legislators, Jiang said that the referendum could be held in July or August.

At the same meeting, President Ma Ying-jeou said that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has been haunting Taiwan for more than two decades. Ma said he fully supports the premier's stance in support of a referendum, as the unstable influence it has had on the stock market and society at-large has gone on for too long.

The president said that the people have the right to know the truth about the safety situation of the power plant, adding that the referendum would not be meaningful if the people do not know the consequences of scrapping or continuing work on it.

Ma said he believes Taiwan's democracy is mature enough to allow its citizens to make the best decision for the nation.

The premier said that since the government resumed work on the plant in 1995, the construction budget has been raised to NT$264 billion, including NT$63.8 billion allocated during the Democratic Progressive Party's administration from 2000 to 2008.

Taiwan's nuclear policies have been made by both ruling and opposition parties over the decades, Jiang said.

The Cabinet will continue paying close attention to the quality of construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, the premier said, adding that the Cabinet will also invite domestic and international nuclear power experts and organizations, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), to supervise and examine the power plant's construction.

Jiang said that in order to ensure the safety of the power plant's operations, the Cabinet will not issue a license if the plant has a single flaw or if any potential problem is discovered.

Referendum before August

The premier said that if the Legislature proposes a national referendum and sends the proposal to the Central Election Commission (CEC) in March, the vote could be held in July and August.

Jiang added that the government's position on nuclear energy is to ensure the safety of all power plants, to steadily reduce Taiwan's reliance on nuclear power and to gradually create a “nuclear-free homeland.”

The fact that the Cabinet accepts the idea of a referendum does not mean it will change its position on the nuclear power issue, the premier stressed.

Jiang added that he hopes the public will discuss the issue rationally, and that it will weigh up the pros and cons of halting construction on the plant.

Failed Nuke 4 Costs NT$15,000 per Citizen: Taipower

Taiwan Power Company (Taipower, 台電) yesterday said that the total budget for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has reached NT$283.8 billion, adding that the Executive Yuan will propose allocating NT$46.2 billion more in June for a final total of NT$333 billion.

Taipower Deputy Manager Chen Pu-tsan (陳布燦) said that if the power plant's construction is halted, the firm will be forced to pay breach-of-contract compensation of NT$10 billion to foreign companies. This, combined with the money already spent, means every citizen would shoulder NT$15,000 for the failed project, according to a local news report.

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President Ma Ying-jeou, right, and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) exchange opinions at a Kuomintang (KMT) meeting, yesterday. Jiang said that the Cabinet is ready to face a referendum over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Ma said that he supports Jiang's stance with regard to a referendum. (CNA)

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