(October 15, 2002) Delegates from 9 countries came together in Taiwan for the once-a-year meeting of Asian NGOs fighting nukes: the 10th No Nukes Asia Forum (NNAF).
(575.5451) WISE Amsterdam - The Taiwanese environmental movement is mainly occupied with the fight against completion of the 7th and 8th reactors, which are being built at the fourth nuclear power station site, in the north-eastern tip of the island (Lungmen). During the NNAF, we visited the site and found out that the management of the project is still very confident of finishing the project. According to the builders the two reactors are almost 30% complete.
Also the harbor, specially built for the nuclear power stations (according to Japanese and Taiwanese sources, delivery of the reactor vessel by ship from Japan is expected next April) seems to be quite on track.
Although Taiwan's governing party (the Democratic People's Party, DPP) opposes nuclear power, anti-nuclear activists say that the whole structure and apparatus of the bureaucracy is still so dominated by people of the Kuo Min Tang (KMT), which was in power for the previous 50 years, that the new government fails to effectively halt the construction of the new reactors. There are also legal problems: at one point Lungmen was included in the budget and the law does not allow canceling the budget. And with not only bureaucracy but also the Taipower company being dominated by KMT pro-nuclear people, it is hardly possible to get the right information, do research, or counter the argument that so much money has been spent that it would be an economic disaster to halt construction.
Meanwhile the project itself is plagued by incidents, cost-overruns and delays (see WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 570.5420, "Taiwan: welds falsified in new scandal at Lungmen".)
Nevertheless there is still hope that the reactors can be stopped. On 21 September, just a week before the first day of the NNAF, the famous activist and former DPP chairman Lin Yi-hsiung started a 1000-kilometer march demanding a referendum to decide upon the future of the project. The environmental movement is pretty confident they would win such a referendum and that a referendum would force even the KMT to abandon the project.
Participants of the NNAF joined the march (which is only pursued in the weekends and will thus take a year) for seven kilometers in Taipei, capital of Taiwan. Lin Yi-hsiung, whose wife and two daughters were killed by security forces in the 1980s when he was already fighting for democracy and against nuclearization of Taiwan, has insisted that the march must take place in complete silence with people walking in a single line, one behind the other.
So, although new and somewhat strange to at least the western participants of the NNAF, we walked in silence and in "goose-formation" through the capital, in a long line of several hundreds of people. Impressive!
After two days of presentations and exchange in Taipei and visits to the reactor site the NNAF group split up. A group visited Orchid Island (where low and intermediate-level waste is being stored) and the other groups visited the waste management plant next to the second nuclear reactor. Besides a volume-reduction center, the plant also has an incinerator where low-level waste and residues of the nuclear industry are burnt - causing concerns about the danger to local fishermen and residents.
Although never scientifically connected to radiation the issues of the deformed fish - still being found near the outlets of the nuclear power stations - keep causing turmoil amongst Unions of fishermen and farmers.
As Taiwan has a special status (with no international recognition) there has never been any international investigation into the causes of the deformation of sea-life. The anti-nuclear power movement keeps supporting the fishermen's unions in their plea for full research and eventual compensation.
Although there was not much media attention for the visits by the NNAF participants, the local groups welcomed the international guests as they considered it a contribution to their struggle and a clear sign of solidarity.
This was also experienced by the group that visited Orchid Island, where the indigenous Tao people are still fighting to have the radioactive waste removed from their island. The new government has recently installed a new commission which will study the Orchid Island repository and look into alternatives for waste-storage. But, as the minister responsible for the commission explained during NNAF, "if we take the waste from Orchid Island we will have to put it somewhere else - no question that this will be a place where other people live and there is no justification to put the burden on other communities."
As the NNAF concluded in its final statement, only stopping the production of new nuclear waste can be a step in the right direction!
Contact: Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), 2nd Fl., 107, section 3, Ting-Chou Road, Taipei, Taiwan
Tel: +886 2 2367 8335 or 2363 6419. Fax: +886 2 2364 4293
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.tepu.org.tw