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No referendum, no fuel rod installment: premier

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Fuel rods will not be installed before a national referendum concerning the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is held, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said yesterday during the Cabinet's weekly meeting.

Jiang denied speculation that the government is planning to install fuel rods in June and conduct a trial period.

Jiang said the executive has reached a consensus with the ruling party caucus and experts from various sectors, namely that a referendum should be held after a series of safety assessments are completed by the Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) and after the Atomic Energy Council's gives its approval.

Taipower is scheduled to complete the assessments in the second half of this year, Jiang said, noting that until then, the government will not entertain the possibility of installing the fuel rods.

Premier on Referendum Threshold

The premier pointed out that the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) draft bill circumvents the threshold stipulated in the existing Referendum Act, paving the way for a simple majority requirement instead.

The Executive Yuan maintains the position that all referendums should be carried out in accordance with the Referendum Act, Jiang said, explaining that a referendum concerning a highly controversial issue, such as the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, should have a minimum voter turnout requirement.

If the minimum threshold is circumvented, then other issues can just as well be decided by the same standards proposed by the opposition, Jiang said.

Issues such as the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement or whether or not the government should abolish the death penalty or build casinos could all as a result be voted on in referendums without a minimum threshold, he explained.

The premier said that according to existing regulations, a referendum can be passed by a quarter of eligible voters plus one vote, adding that such standards are not strict.

Premier on Hunger Strike

Jiang said that former DPP chairman Lin Yi-hsiung (林義雄) is an elder statesman highly respected for his contributions to the process of democratization in Taiwan, adding, however, that Lin should not get others to agree to his demands by hurting himself.

A controversy as large as Nuke 4, which has been ongoing for decades, should not be resolved unilaterally by the executive or by the Legislature, the premier said, reiterating that the power plant, on which nearly NT$300 billion has been spent, should be resolved via a referendum, the highest expression of the people's will.

Economics Ministry on Nuke 4

Chang Chia-juch (張家祝), chief of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), said that Nuke 1, 2 and 3 supply 18.4 percent of the nation's electricity, adding that an alternative plan will be necessary if the public decides to do away with nuclear power.

MOEA Vice Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun (杜紫軍) said that an electricity shortage will be an inevitable outcome should the country decide not to activate Nuke 4.

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