* Safety checks completed before holding referendum -
* New plant scheduled to begin operation in 2016
* Stocks post worst percentage slide since Feb
(Adds comments, details)
By Faith Hung
TAIPEI, April 25 Taiwan's government on Friday
refused opposition demands for an immediate referendum on the
future of the country's contentious fourth nuclear plant, but
reiterated it would hold a referendum before the plant starts
In a rare meeting with the opposition leader, President Ma
Ying-jeou insisted that an ongoing series of safety checks
should be completed, but said he would not allow fuel rods to be
installed or the plant to be activated before a referendum.
"Upon completion of the safety checks, we'll hold a
referendum to decide the future of the fourth nuclear power
plant," Ma said.
Taiwan's share market fell 2 percent in the session
on fears of higher electricity prices that could dent the
economy, the worst one-day fall since early February.
Plans for the power plant have come under the spotlight in
the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, with the
public sceptical about the safety of such facilities in
earthquake-prone regions such as Taiwan.
Taiwan's premier earlier this week rejected opposition
demands to halt construction of the plant, sparking threats of
street protests from anti-nuclear campaigners.
Newspaper reports overnight said the government had agreed
to put the planned 2016 commercial start-up of the plant on hold
due to opposition and public pressure.
Ma noted that Taiwan stocks fell for three months 14 years
ago from 6,400 points to about 4,000 points when the
then-government, led by the DPP, announced a halt to the
construction of the same plant located in northern New Taipei
"We don't want to see the same mistakes happening again," he
Taiwan's three current nuclear power facilities would have
to serve longer if the fourth one does not start operating as
planned, the economics ministry has said.
Taiwan's first nuclear plant is set to be decommissioned
between 2018-19, while the second is set to close between
Some 40 percent of the island's electricity is generated by
burning coal, 30 percent using natural gas and 18.4 percent by
nuclear power plants, according to the economics ministry.
Taiwan sits near the so-called ring of fire region of
seismic activity around the Pacific Ocean.
(Additional reporting by Lin Miao-jung; Editing by Richard