Friday, August 2, 2013

Vibrantly Democratic Taiwan's Lawmakers Brawl Over Nuclear Plant Referendum

It's for the show, says AP. But still, Taiwanese have more gusto than Japanese, throwing punches, throwing water bottles...

From ABC News quoting AP (8/2/2013; emphasis is mine):

Taiwan Lawmakers Brawl Over Nuclear Plant Bill

Taiwanese lawmakers exchanged punches and threw water at each other Friday ahead of an expected vote that would authorize a referendum on whether to finish a fourth nuclear power plant on this densely populated island of 23 million people.

Nuclear power has long been a contentious issue in Taiwan and became more so following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011. While many Taiwanese consider nuclear power generation an unacceptable safety risk for the earthquake-prone island, economic analyses suggest disruptive power shortages are inevitable if the fourth plant is not completed.

Friday's fracas pitted the pro-referendum forces of President Ma Ying-jeou's ruling Nationalist Party against strongly anti-nuclear forces affiliated with the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party. DPP lawmakers occupied the legislative podium late Thursday night amid vows to disrupt the vote. It had not taken place by midday Friday, but with a large Nationalist majority in the 113-seat legislature, the referendum bill is expected to pass easily.
Taiwan Nuclear.JPEG

Construction of Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant began in 1997 but was halted while the DPP was in power between 2000 and 2008. If the referendum is passed it could become operational by 2016.

Physical confrontations broke out early in Friday's session. Associated Press television footage shows some eight people pushing and shoving in one scrum. Two people scuffled on the floor, while others tried to separate them. More than a dozen activists in bright yellow shirts chanted and waved signs on a nearby balcony, and several of them splashed water onto lawmakers below. A few water bottles were thrown into the fray.

Some DPP lawmakers object to the idea of any nuclear referendum at all, while others say that the language in the bill needs to be changed because it is prejudicial. According to the bill under discussion, referendum voters would be asked to vote on whether they agree with the proposition that "the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant should be halted and that it not become operational."

Taiwan began transitioning away from a one-party martial law regime in 1987 and is regarded today as one of Asia's most vibrant democracies. But its political process has been undermined by occasional outbursts of violence in the legislature, much of which appears to be deliberately designed to score points among hardline supporters on either side of the island's longstanding political divide.

It is not very clear in the article, but Taiwan's ruling party is pro-nuclear, pushing for this referendum.

For more on growing anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan, here's from Energy Tribune (3/13/2013; emphasis is mine):

Anti-Nuclear Storm Brewing in Taiwan

By Tim Daiss

There is a storm brewing in Taiwan. But this time it’s not a killer typhoon blowing in from the South China Sea or even an earthquake, which often plagues this island country. It’s the fight over the future of nuclear power.

In one corner are environmentalists, academics, an alarmed populace and even Taiwanese celebrities. In the other corner are politicians, government planners and Taipower, the country’s state-owned power utility.

In fact, public outcry against the county’s proposed fourth nuclear plant has reached a fever pitch, prompting a referendum to be held later this year. At stake is a new nuclear plant already about 90 percent completed in New Taipei City. The plant is scheduled to come online by 2015.

...Taiwan’s geographical location, which sits on the boundary between two converging tectonic plates, is indeed cause for concern. Additionally, the country is in the proximity of a volcano group. Opponents also cite the fact that Taiwan’s three existing plants are all located in one area, New Taipei City, which makes it even more vulnerable to natural disaster that could lead to a series of chain reactions.

The country’s anti-nuclear faction also points to nuclear waste as another problem, since nuclear waste has to be buried between 610m and 1,200m underground in a geologically stable area for a period of 10,000 years and up, they claim, citing a Taiwanese government paper. Critics claim that an adequate burial site cannot be found in Taiwan.

...However, the pro-nuclear camp has friends in high places, including current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou. Ma repeatedly defends his government’s nuclear stance and promises, even guarantees nuclear safety before allowing commercial operation of the new plant.

Though pro-nuclear, Ma seems to be taking a pragmatic approach to the problem. “We can reduce nuclear power gradually, but it will be hard to achieve this goal in a single step,” he said at a March 2 meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members that call for a halt to construction of the fourth plant.

Ma added that the government would respect any decision made by the public on this issue in the upcoming national referendum, which itself has become a political bloodbath as both sides try to work referendum details to suit their own agendas.

(Full article at the link)


Anonymous said...

It is obvious none of these promoters of nuclear power have paid any attention to Fukushima.

I've lived here in Taiwan for nearly 2 years and am married to a local woman. I'm from devil worshiping America.

The biggest energy draw I can think of is all of the Japanese branded water heaters in every kitchen, office, government building and everywhere else. HOT WATER FOR EVERYONE !!!

There is a celebrity, I can't tell you his name, but he looks many many years younger than his years and he attributes his youthful appearance to drinking hot water.

I talked with a lady here who said she wanted to move to Japan and she had no idea that Fukushima was still a concern. We talked about nuclear in Taiwan and I asked her if she had a hot water heater. Yes. I asked her if she left it running while she was away all day and she said yes. She went on to say that everything else was turned off but the water was sure to be hot whenever it was she was to make it home.

At the city run fitness facility, all 4 floors have at least 2 hot water machines running day and night. One of the guys that works at the gym scolds me whenever I come into the gym with a bottle of cold water to drink. My water should be HOT.

If the government here outlawed Japanese branded hot water machines and the rest of them then I'm quite sure the energy demands would be much much reduced.

Burn coal, burn discarded food (tons and tons of it wasted every day), burn natural gas but please please please shut all of the nuke plants. Overnight Taiwan could become uninhabitable and there really would be no way for folks to get out in time to avoid harm.

BTW, what did you think of the recent zerohedge article?

Kind regards,

Smoking Caster

Anonymous said...

At anon 2:51

I'm not the owner of this blog, he has a name; ask him personally if you want to.

1) Water heaters or Japanese water heaters?
2) Education works better than Prohibition, US citizens knew I thought.
Now for ZH, what I read there is what I'm on recently, and read nothing new to me - I agree I've been on touch.
And ZH is rather excitable.
The only wonder for me here is is the "slow motion crash" (it wasn't always slow, he he) getting momentum or is it just a communication process.


Anonymous said...

Hi anon 4:22

I was saying that all hot water heaters should be banned. I don't know if education would change people's habits. I'm guessing that the majority of those in Taiwan against nuclear power run their electric hot water heaters while still knowing how much power they require.

The reason I mentioned the Japanese branded hot water machines is that I can't recall seeing a household hot water machine that was not a Japanese machine.

Of course I am being heavy handed in saying hot water machines should be banned but I also believe a heavy hand is what is needed to deal with the current crisis (a long time ago) and to prevent future disasters.

Smoking Caster

Anonymous said...

Ehm, what is a hot water machine? An electric pot?
Pots are great for electric utilities because they easily draw 1kw (you need a bigger contract), you tend to use them at domestic peak time (dinner) and/or let them turned on all the time to always have hot water ready. Forget the electric pot and get a kettle (on a gas cooking table, of course).
Anyways... in Taiwan it is the nuke boys who want a referendum? Kind of unusual, I would think. Can anyone provide more colour? thank you...


Anonymous said...

First thing first, great blog!

For those who are wondering why the anti-nuke camp would fight against a referendum, the short answer is obviously that the a referendum will more likely help the nuclear power plant than stop it.

The laws in Taiwan as it stands today makes the act of proposing a referendum difficult and the outcome almost a guaranteed NO. The ruling party which has enough seats to propose a referendum can control the outcome by wording the referendum in their favor. In this case, a NO on stopping the power plant translates into a yes for the power plant.

Don't know if the number is trustworthy, but some polls in Taiwan claim 70% are against nuclear power. At this rate, Taiwan needs a voter turn out of at least 71.5% voter turn out to have a chance at stopping nulcear power.

VyseLegendaire said...

Anon above<----

That's pretty astonishing. It's sad but not surprising to hear that such chicanery can be used to hoodwink the populace....but of course there is nothing unique about this in today's political climate around world, esp. in the 'developed nations.'

Anonymous said...


The referendum will require 50% voter turnout for the popular vote to count. Without 50% participation then none of it matters and they will carry on with the plans to open the plant.

From the article -

Low voter turnout in all six referendums in the nation’s history suggest that the chances of a valid referendum are slim, as it would require at least 50 percent of the electorate to vote. Therefore, the government would have legitimate justification to continue construction of the plant, despite serious safety concerns.

The way the question is phrased in the KMT proposal — “Do you agree that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant should be halted and that it not become operational (你是否同意核四廠停止興建不得運轉)?” — means a failed referendum would be taken to show that people support continuation of the plant’s construction.

Smoking Caster

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