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September 25, 2017

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Up to 200,000 protest nuclear energy

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The 309 Nuclear Free National Rally kicked off its string of events in front of Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei yesterday afternoon, with similar rallies in Kaohsiung, Taichung, Taitung and Penghu.

Over 100 civic groups joined the nationwide event, including the I am Human group and Victims of Nuclear Power, from Northern Taiwan. Despite the unseasonably hot and humid weather, people flooded into the street in front of the Presidential Office, with some even decked out in heavy costumes.

Police estimates put attendance in Taipei at over 50,000, with some 8,000 each in Taichung and Kaohsiung. The event's main organizers, however, estimated that 120,000 protesters turned out in Taipei and 200,000 nationwide.

According to organizers, the demonstrations sought to make five statements: stop funding for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, stop installing fuel rods at the plant, stop the operation of all three nuclear power plants, remove all nuclear waste from Orchid Island, and requesting the government implement restrictions on power use.

"We ask that the government terminate all nuclear power immediately," Taipei event host Lai Wei-chieh (賴偉傑) said.

Marching from Ketagalan Boulevard, the rally made its way through the capital, stopping in front of the central bank to demand that no more funds be allocated for the fourth plant, at the Taipei Botanical Garden (植物園) to protest against 47 legislators who support the plant; and at the Council of Agriculture to demand farmland be protected from nuclear radiation.

Some participants used 5 kilometers of blockade tape to encircle a section of Bo-Ai Road. "Using the blockade tape represents that if anything happens to Nuke 4, the entire city of Taipei will become a restricted area due to the impact of the damage," Lai said.

Afterward, demonstrators returned to outside the Presidential Office for a vigil, the first protest of its kind on such a scale in years, organizers said.

Distrust for Premier

Although the government has proposed launching a referendum to decide the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, Lai lashed out at the idea, saying that using a vote to settle such a sensitive issue has sparked too much controversy.

"The referendum is full of conspiracy and questionable points. Does the government really think they can allow a referendum to decide Taiwan's environmental fate?" he asked.

When asked about Premier Jiang Yi-huah's (江宜樺) statement that he might appear at the demonstration, Lai said, "If you (Jiang) truly believe in terminating nuclear power, then come and join our demonstration. Otherwise don't even bother."

"No one can ensure the safety of nuclear power, not even Premier Jiang.

"A 1-percent threat is still a threat. I think it's illogical for the premier to promise a nuclear-free country in the future but continue the Nuke 4 project."

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