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Academia Sinica calls for 'reasonable' referendum

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The head of Taiwan's top research institute and 24 of its members called Sunday for a “reasonably designed” referendum to decide the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.

A referendum designed in a reasonable format and approved by both the ruling and opposition parties should be held to seek consensus and decide the fate of the nearly completed nuclear power plant, Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey and the other academicians said in a joint statement.

Nuclear power is an option for carbon emission reduction in countries not threatened by earthquakes, said the academicians, including Lee Yuan-tseh, a winner of Nobel Prize in chemistry, and National Taiwan University President Yang Pan-chyr.

But a 2011 report by the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council, they said, shows that Taiwan has six of the 12 reactors around the world that are located in very high seismic hazard areas.

Besides a lack of proper methods for handling nuclear waste, the government has neither come up with an energy policy to reduce Taiwan's carbon emissions nor has it provided convincing analysis on the safety of the fourth nuclear power plant, leading to controversy surrounding the facility since construction began in 1999, the academicians said.

Since there is still time for rational discussion on whether the plant should enter service, according to the latest evaluation by Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), Wong and his colleagues urged the country's political parties to agree soon on a properly designed vote so that the fate of the plant can be determined.

The debate over the nuclear power plant was rekindled after former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung embarked April 22 on a hunger strike to call for the power plant to be immediately scrapped.

President Ma Ying-jeou and his administration have agreed to hold a referendum to decide whether the plant should become operational after construction is completed, while the DPP has proposed a bill to relax the threshold for a special referendum on the issue, since none of the six referendums held in the past have managed to elicit sufficient voter support.

The fourth nuclear power plant, which is located in New Taipei's Gongliao District, was 93.74 percent completed as of the end of March, according to Taipower's website.

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