February 25-March 3, 2013
Civil society organizations gear up for March 9 protest march
Reported by Chen Yi-hsuan and Simon Lin
Written by Lydia Ma
Keenly aware that Taiwan cannot afford even one nuclear meltdown, many civil society organizations will take part in a national protest march set for March 9, 2013. As a warm-up for this protest, the Homemakers United Foundation (HUF) organized symposiums in Tainan and Kaohsiung one week prior the event to raise awareness and rally support.
On February 23, HUF Tainan invited the General Secretary of Green Citizens’ Action Alliance Choi Suxin to speak on the topic of “Rethinking zero nuclear energy”. The following day, HUF invited Liu Li-er, a Taiwanese author residing in Japan, and children’s book author Xin Jia-hui to talk to parents and children about the nuclear spill in Fukushima and the facts behind Taiwan’s nuclear energy. Both authors agreed that getting rid of nuclear energy is the only means to save Taiwan from the perils of nuclear energy.
Both Choi and Liu referenced the nuclear spill that took place in Fukushima in March 2011 and underscored that the tragedy was not a one-time accident, but rather a “present progressive” type of nuclear disaster. Hence, it is unfortunate that the Taiwanese media rarely mentions this tragedy nowadays. Choi said that in the aftermath of the nuclear meltdown, the Japanese government claimed that the radiation that spilled out would not have any immediate effect on the human body. However, children, food, soil, forests, etc. were still exposed to radiation. Since it’s very hard to get rid of radiation after it has come into contact with people, animals, or things, Japanese describe radiation as a type of “transparent horror”.
Liu, who has long lived near Tokyo, said that she had to leave her huge collection of books and her house in Kanto behind because these had been exposed to radiation and it wasn’t safe for her to be near them. Since Japan is a long island country, she was able to flee to the city of Osaka some 700 kilometers away. However, “if the nuclear spill had happened in Taiwan, where would I escape to? My only option would probably be to jump into the sea.”
In other words, nuclear meltdowns in densely populated areas such as Taiwan are horrifying. If a nuclear spill were to occur at the existing 3 nuclear power plants in Taiwan, about 6 million people would need to be evacuated because they live within 30 kilometers of a nuclear plant. With inadequate shelters and underprepared hospitals, the national economy and the national government would come to a standstill in the event of a nuclear meltdown.
As these speakers shared their thoughts and experiences, they also used statistics and international news reports to substantiate their opinions. They spoke about the Japanese government’s helplessness and they also spoke about the flaws or holes in Taiwan’s nuclear energy policies. They reminded the audience that all 3 existing nuclear power plants in Taiwan are considered among the most dangerous nuclear plants in the world. Choi noted that Taiwan Power Company often likes to cite “insufficient energy” to scare people into supporting nuclear energy, but nuclear energy accounts for only 16.7% of Taiwan’s energy source. Hence, it is not worthwhile to sacrifice Taiwan’s future for nuclear energy, which accounts for such a low percentage of the total national source of energy. She urged the government to follow in the footsteps of Germany and Denmark when it comes to nuclear energy as both countries have committed to suppressing the growth of energy use to 0%.
“A nuclear disaster is not a remote possibility!” Liu said based on her experiences in Japan in the aftermath of the March 11 Earthquake. She urged Taiwanese to act immediately because Taiwan not only has unsafe nuclear plants, but also inadequate nuclear waste storage. These two factors spell disaster in an earthquake-prone and densely populated country such as Taiwan with no place to retreat. In the event of a nuclear disaster, Taiwan will be wiped off from the face of the earth.
Xin read a children’s storybook to the audience during the seminar and it was about a Japanese girl who was thrown from the force of the blast of the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima during World War II. The story was named after this little 2-year-old girl called Sadako, who succumbed to leukemia 10 years after the blast. Xin hoped that this story would prompt every parent to heed the dangers associated with nuclear energy and to take a stand against nuclear energy for the sake of the next generation.
In a similar symposium hosted by HUF Kaohsiung, Green Citizens’ Action Alliance CEO Lai Wei-jie said that nuclear power plants in Taiwan are not resistant enough against earthquakes. He said that they are much inferior in terms of resistance level compared to the Fukushima Daiichi Plant. Lai added that structural problems with these nuclear power plants are the most disturbing of all problems. He explained that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant was originally contracted out to a foreign company in its entirety, but things changed later on and the work was divided so that the Taiwan Power Company wound up taking over this project.
Lai said that Taiwan Power Company lacks the expertise to build nuclear power plants and the construction project has been riddled with mistakes, which has been widely reported by the media. Lai also quoted Lin Tsung-yao, a nuclear engineer and member of the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Facility Safety to the Atomic Energy Council, who once questioned the safety of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and went as far as describing the project as a “white mouse”. Alluding to the fact that this project was beyond Taiwan Power Company’s ability to handle, he said, “to let TaiPower build the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is akin to asking China Airlines to build a Boeing 747.”