(Corrects title to DPP chairman, not spokesman, in fourth
By Clare Jim
TAIPEI Feb 26 Taiwan's main opposition party
called on Tuesday for a change in the law governing referendums
to give voters a fair chance to decide whether to halt
construction of a fourth nuclear power station on the
The ruling Nationalist Party, long a backer of the project,
bowed to opposition demands on Monday to hold a referendum on
halting the construction of two reactors in New Taipei City
county in northern Taiwan.
The opposition says provisions of Taiwan's Referendum Act
make it difficult to pass any motion submitted for approval, as
half of all voters must take part, and half of them must vote in
favour of a motion for it to pass.
"We want an impartial and fair referendum," opposition
Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang said in a
statement. "Not with this 'bird cage' referendum law and not in
this deceptive manner."
The government is clearly gambling on a favourable vote to
Construction is 98 percent complete and tests have begun on
the first reactor. Any halt to the project would incur huge
costs, with the budget standing at T$283.8 billion ($9.57
billion), according to state-owned Taipower, and the
cabinet is expected to seek additional funds in June.
Opposition to nuclear power swept across the world following
the 2011 crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, triggered by
an earthquake and tsunami. But pressure on governments to reduce
reliance on oil and tap cheaper energy forms is bringing
projects back to the drawing board.
Last month, South Korea decided to expand its nuclear
programme despite safety concerns and scares that closed two
reactors.. China this month started up the first
reactor commissioned since the meltdowns at Fukushima, the
world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
Taiwan has run its affairs separately from China since
defeated Chinese Nationalist forces fled to the island at the
end of a civil war in 1949. It began introducing democratic
procedures in the 1980s, including multi-party elections, the
right of assembly and referendums.
Opposition-backed demonstrators have demanded a halt to the
New Taipei City project, with many protesters citing design and
VOTE COULD TAKE PLACE IN AUGUST
Nationalist Party lawmakers backed Premier Jiang Yi-huah's
call to proceed with a referendum despite longstanding support
for plans to expand Taiwan's capacity of six reactors. Nuclear
power accounts for 18.4 percent of electricity production.
A referendum could be held in August once parliament gave
its approval, said Nationalist Party official Lin Hung-Chih.
Six referendums on various issues since 2004 have failed to
pass owing to the requirements on participation and voting set
down in the law.
"With the high threshold, it's very difficult to kill the
project," said Tsai-yi Wu, a vice president of the Taiwan
Tsai said a failure to bring the new station on line by 2015
would mean Taiwan could not meet its goal of achieving a
capacity reserve of 15 percent at least until 2020 and would
probably lead to mandatory power consumption limits.
($1 = 29.6555 Taiwan dollars)
(Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Manash Goswami and Ron