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June 29, 2017

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Gov't hoping to glean better understanding of Japan nuke policy: Ma

TAIPEI--As debate over nuclear power intensifies in Taiwan, the government hopes to get a better understanding of Japan's recent decision to reinstate nuclear power three years after the Fukushima Daiichi plant meltdown, President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday.

His comments came as a Japanese nuclear energy advisory delegation made up of seven parliamentarians and eight nuclear specialists is visiting Taiwan. Chief among them are former University of Tokyo President Akito Arima and Executive Acting Secretary-General of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party Hiroyuki Hosoda, who also heads an energy safety committee.

Receiving the delegation at the Presidential Office, Ma said the massive earthquake that caused the Fukushima Daiichi disaster led Taiwan to rethink its energy policy.

The new policies include a pledge to maintain reasonable prices and avoid power cuts, to adhere to international low-emissions standards, to ensure safety, and to gradually reduce reliance on nuclear energy with an eventual goal of eliminating it.

Speaking on the future of Taiwan's Fourth Nuclear Power Plant — the subject of days of protests — Ma said that a national energy conference will be held in the near future now that the government has announced a halt to construction of the plant's first and second reactors.

He said that the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster came as a shock for the whole world, and Taiwan subjected its nuclear power facilities to two rounds of safety inspections as a result.

Contingency plans in the face of emergencies and natural disasters have been strengthened for the first, second and third nuclear power plants, as well as for the nearly completed fourth, Ma said.

"The government has always insisted that there will be no nuclear energy without nuclear safety," the president emphasized, adding that a power plant must undergo all necessary safety inspections prior to becoming operational. New ways of improving safety are also constantly being sought out, he added.

He noted that in the aftermath of Japan's nuclear disaster, Japan's government vowed to work toward becoming a non-nuclear nation.

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet announced April 11 a new energy policy with nuclear energy as its base, he continued, and plans are being drawn up to reopen nuclear power facilities across Japan pending safety inspections.

Ma pointed out Japan's location on a fault line and its heavy reliance on foreign energy imports such as fossil fuels and natural gases for 90 percent of its energy usage. He added that because of Japan's independent power grid, it is unable to procure energy directly from foreign countries.

He went on to say that, like Japan, Taiwan is also earthquake prone and relies on imports for 98 percent of fossil fuels. Taiwan also has its own power grid, the president added, with 18.4 percent of Taiwan's total electricity coming from nuclear energy.

"We hope to understand Japan's own experiences in this regard, and use them to help us in our quest to solve our own nuclear dilemma," he said.

Ma said his administration is eager to learn why Japan suddenly changed its mind on nuclear energy, how the Japanese government will ensure the safety of its nuclear energy, and whether the government's decision is backed by its people.

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