Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Fourth Nuke Referendum Round Up

In Taiwan even the dogs dress like betel nut girls.

The DPP says it will work to get the referendum law changed for the upcoming referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Plant (also here). The DPP's strategy:
DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said the DPP caucus would likely adopt a strategy that urges voters to treat the referendum as a vote of no confidence in President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to mobilize local communities.
We had a referendum on Ma; it was call the 2012 Presidential election. Let's do something revolutionary and treat this as a referendum on the nuclear power plant.

Speaking of referendums, the local authorities organized a referendum in 1994 on the plant, even before it was approved. 96% voted against. Naturally this was ignored.

Eric Chu, now the chief of Taipei city, advocated absentee voting, which would increase the turnout. Remember that half the population has to turn out for the vote to be binding. Absentee voting has major political implications for local elections, especially with so many individuals outside Taiwan living in China. That's why the premier immediately supported it. Interestingly, the lead in this particular little play was assigned to Chu, who needs to raise his profile if he wants to be the Presidential candidate in 2016.

Lin Yi-hsiung, along with many others, points out that the referendum is a joke, just a political game. It means that the KMT government will be opposing a referendum put forward by KMT legislators. LOL. President Ma is supporting construction of the plant. The KMT plans to submit the referendum proposal to the legislature this week. The propaganda blizzard is already starting:
Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said on Friday that he would resign if the government loses the vote and construction of the plant is halted, adding that if construction is halted it could lead to bankruptcy for state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) as well as cause other problems such as power shortages.
It might lead to power shortages, if the government decides never to build another power plant of any kind. Like that is really going to happen. Once again, let me remind the reader that twenty years ago we heard this crap about economic collapse, power shortages, Mad Max on the streets, etc. Still the same garbage two decades later. Remember this from 2000?
Proponents of the plant, the plans for which date back 20 years, have argued that the facility in northern Taiwan is urgently needed for national security and to help sustain continued economic growth. Taiwan imports 97 percent of its energy needs. They also argue that ditching the project would be a tremendous waste of taxpayers' money. State-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) has already spent $1.6 billion on the project. The implications for Taipower are severe: If it is substantially financially weakened, it will be much more difficult to privatize it, as the government plans.
Same themes: economic growth, financial damage to Taipower. The "credibility" issue was also a factor back then -- Taiwan must buy big power systems from abroad to maintain its credibility with other nations -- so expect that one to be revived for the current debate too.

Note that the article above says Taiwan has no long-term plan to deal with nuclear waste -- it still doesn't. Does that lack suggest that the government expects the plant will never be built?

Commercial Times called for everyone to be rational about it. Good luck with that.

A key source of mobilizing the public should be celebrities. I hope we see a steady flow of them in the months to come. TT has a report on celebrities coming out against the nuke plant.

Wording of the referendum is going to be crucial. Can't wait to see it....

The referendum has a number of useful political functions -- still waiting on your analysis, M!. One among them is making other urgent issues disappear. For example, the government is also working on pension reform, of interest to the bureaucracy and government employees, one of the KMT's most important constituencies. Remember, the government has done very little on the stock transaction tax and nothing at all on the land tax, as well as income tax on the wealthy. Down the memory hole as each new "crisis" wipes long-term issues out of the headlines.

Some comments on safety and construction...

A group opposed to the plant points out that it is vulnerable to historical-sized tsunamis and that the wall to protect it is too low. Moreover, the government has conducted no surveys of historical tsunamis in the area. The TT reports:
In response to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) contention that Tsai supported the plant’s construction when she served as vice premier, the former DPP chairperson said the KMT was manipulating past events to fit its own purposes.

Tsai, who served as vice premier between 2006 and 2007, said the then-DPP Cabinet’s approval of the nuclear energy plant’s construction was based on Taiwan Power Co’s (Taipower) pledge to finish construction within the year.

After the approval was given, there were repeated accidents, construction delays, requests for additional budget allocations and the construction was never completed, she said (source).
Accidents, delays... quakes and tsunamis. Chernobyl was actually cited in the original funding for the plant, according to this article. From Wild At Heart's Shadow Report:
...Like Fukushima Island, the location of the 2011 Japanese nuclear disaster, Taiwan is situated at the juncture of the Phillippine and Eurasian Tectonic Plates. Islands along this geologically active seabed bulge frequently experience high-magnitude earthquakes -- from 1991 to 2006, there were an average of 18,500 earthquakes per year, with 49,919 in 1999 alone. There are faultlines near all four of Taiwan's nuclear plants. Chinshan and Kuosheng plants are located near Mt. Datun, a dormant volcano, and the Lungmen plant is exposed to the activity of 70 underwater volcanoes, with geologists warning that volcanic eruptions are a potential threat to nuclear safety. In 1867, the Keelung-Chinshan Tsunami -- the most deadly in Taiwan's recorded history -- affected areas dangerously close to the present-day locations of the Chinshan and Kuosheng plants. In 1771, 85-meter-tall waves inundated Japan's Ishigaki Island, 200 kilometers off Taiwan's northeastern coast. Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs notes in its Central Geological Survey that faultline and underwater volcano activity is expected to accompany the observed expansion of the oceanic trough northeast of Taiwan, making tsunamis a likely occurrence in the area. This is of great concern because geologists believe that tsunamis pose a serious threat to nuclear plant safety. The Chinshan and Kuosheng plants are also located along the potential path of rock- and land-slides....
From one of Dennis Engbarth's old pieces:
According to DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin, the ‘Nuclear Four’ project suffers from a long list of concerns, including over 700 arbitrary design changes without GE’s permission, insufficient earthquake protection to withstand a seven magnitude earthquake, proximity to recently discovered active undersea volcanoes and faults. She also said the plant is suffering from poor management by Taipower, which is directly managing construction, unlike the previous plants which were supervised by GE and Westinghouse.
To get some idea of the natural threats, see this old post. See too this report which said that the key safety systems were being treated like waste dumps. This plant is a disaster waiting to happen. Of course, if anything happens, the government's evac plan for Taipei is YOYO: you're on your own. There is no plan. OECD experts in Taiwan for safety review of plants.

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1 comment:

StefanMuc said...

Isn't the plan to handle the waste, to just dump it on aboriginal populations?

Well, failing that - surely Taiwan can just export the waste to Japan.