Japan couldn't pull plug, neither can we: Ma
By Enru Lin, The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- Japan could not afford an instant shutdown of nuclear power sources, for reasons that should make Taiwan think twice and go slow in pursuit of a nuclear-free homeland, said President Ma Ying-jeou.
March 11, 2013, 12:10 am TWN
Nuclear power is currently the cheapest and cleanest energy source available, said Ma at an awards ceremony for business leaders in Taipei yesterday.
After the Fukushima meltdown on March 11, 2011, Japan rushed to pull the plug on the nation's 50 working reactors and heralded an accelerated move toward renewable energy. The result was summer-long energy rationing, as well as jumps of 8.46 percent and 14.9 percent in household and commercial electricity rates, respectively. At the same time, Japan was forced to import large quantities of fuel for power generation, sending the trade deficit soaring to its worst on record, Ma continued.
After coming to office, the Liberal Democratic Party's Shinzo Abe reversed Japan's commitment to a nuclear-free homeland. This Feb. 28, Abe announced that he will “reduce, not eliminate, nuclear energy” to avoid hollowing out the Japanese economy. The government does not rule out the construction of new plants, though new reactors can begin commercial operations only if they pass safety tests, Abe declared.
Japan's energy dependencies are very similar to those of Taiwan, so Japan's problems after an instant shutdown are “very worth thinking about,” said Ma.
The upcoming national referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is in fact the choice between an instant end to nuclear power and a stable phase-out, according to Ma.
Nuke 4 Not Fukushima: Ma
Also yesterday, the president stressed that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant faces less risk of an accident than the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Compared to the Japanese plant, the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has five more lines of defense, sits on a higher elevation and is situated farther from the sea, which makes it less sensitive to the effects of tsunamis, said Ma, citing data from the Executive Yuan.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and state utility Taipower are being pressed to further upgrade safety measures at the plant, according to Ma.
Ma was speaking on the eve of March 11, the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in 2011.