TAIPEI – (AFP) – Hundreds of Taiwanese protested in the capital Taipei on Sunday over government plans to hold what they call an unfair referendum on the fate of a nearly-completed nuclear power plant.
Chanting slogans like “Stop dangerous nuclear power”, the protestors stood together in front of parliament to spell out the word “STOP” and held up black and yellow signs.
The demonstration came a few days before the ruling Kuomintang party plans to push through a bill to host a nationwide referendum that will decide whether the the island’s fourth nuclear plant should be completed.
A “No” vote would only be accepted if turnout reaches 50 percent of the island’s 18 million people, rather than a poll based on a simple majority.
“Such a design is unfair,” Liu Hui-min, a spokeswoman for the protest, told AFP.
“Since so many people have voiced against the risky power plant, the government should scrap the project instead,” referring to several public surveys which indicated around 70 percent of respondents opposed the plant.
Concerns about the island’s nuclear power plants have been mounting since the March 2011 Fukushima crisis in Japan.
Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In September 1999 a 7.6-magnitude quake killed around 2,400 people the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s recent history.
The controversial plant, in the coastal Kungliao district near Taipei, is about 90 percent completed and due to come online in 2015, according to its operator the state-owned Taiwan Power Company (Taipower).
Construction began in 1999 but the plant has been the subject of intense political wrangling ever since.
In February Premier Jiang Yi-huah said for the first time that the government may support holding a referendum on its future amid growing public concern.
Taipower says the island will face power shortages without a new nuclear plant.
The three existing nuclear plants supply about 20 percent of Taiwan’s electricity. But the first and second atomic plants and several other power stations are due to be shut down in the near future.