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Taiwan: Anti-Nuclear Protesters’ Lonely Quest

A fourth nuclear power plant is currently under construction in Taiwan, in Gongliao town, just 40 km away from the capital Taipei.

In 1988, eight years after the Taiwan Power Company first decided to build the plant, locals in Gongliao held the first meeting of what became their anti-nuclear organization. In 1994, they even held their own referendum [zh], which revealed that 96% of locals were opposed to the plant's construction.

Nevertheless, the government disregarded such opinions and took steps to suppress these voices.

A protest against Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant in 2010. Image by Alvin Chua (CC BY 2.0).

A protest against Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant in 2010. Image by Alvin Chua (CC BY 2.0).

In 1991 [zh], after protesters put up structures on land planned for the future nuclear power plant, police tried to tear down them down.

10月3日,因警方違反協議拆除棚架並毆打自救會會長引爆激烈衝突,衝進圍籬的箱型車因撞到柱子翻倒而意外壓死一名保警,史稱1003事件。郝柏村內閣趁勢聯合媒體抹黑自救會和支持反核者,開車的反核義工林順源被判無期徒刑、自救會執行長高清南被判十年徒刑。

On October 3rd [1991], there was a serious clash after police violated the previous agreement and tore down the shelves, and hit the president of the anti-nuke [nuclear] organization. A policeman was accidentally killed after one driver hit a pillar and flipped the car. This was later named the 1003 incident. After the accident, the local government instigated media to discredit the anti-nuke organization and their supporters. That driver, Shun-Yuan Lin (林順源), who was a volunteer for the anti-nuke organization, was declared guilty and given a life sentence. In addition, the CEO [Chief Executive Officer] of the organization, Ching-Nan Gao (高清南) was sentenced to ten years in prison.

In 1999, after the Atomic Energy Council approved the license for construction of the fourth nuclear power plant, the government revoked the fishery rights [zh] of locals in Gongliao without notice. Locals refused the compensation [zh] offered by the government and went to the Executive Yuan to protest against this decision.

憤怒的漁民把經濟部逕自撥給漁會的兩億多元補償金支票立刻退回,集結到立法院門前高喊:「還我漁業權!」「我們要給子孫代代吃,不是要給我們吃而已!」

After the Ministry of Economic Affairs sent compensation checks to local fishing organization, angry fishermen sent the NT$ [New Taiwan Dollar] 200 million (US$ 6.78 million) check back. They gathered in front of the Legislative Yuan and yelled, ‘Give our fishery rights back!’ ‘We demand that our future generations, not only ourselves, will have something to eat.’

In 2000, these anti-nuclear activists rode a rollercoaster after the Democratic Progressive Party candidate took office. The ruling party decided to suspend the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant. However, because political conflict [zh] between the ruling party and the opposition party could not be resolved, the ‘cancellation’ itself was voided in 2001:

亞洲金融風暴的後座力到2001年在台爆發,佔立法院多數席次的國民黨把經濟衰退的帳「理所當然」地推給核四停建,民進黨則反手把黑鍋推給貢寮鄉民。

Taiwan’s economy was influenced by the Asian financial crisis in 2001. The Kuomingtang, the majority party in the Legislative Yuan, claimed the suspension of the fourth nuclear power plant should ‘reasonably’ be responsible for the economy problems. On the other hand, the Democratic Progressive Party claimed the residents in Gongliao should take the responsibility for the suspension of the power plant.

After more than 20 years of protests against the nuclear power plant, construction has resumed, leaving locals to deal with their own fear without hope [zh]:

「看核電廠距離我家那麼近,當然馬ㄟ驚啊!」坐在澳底仁和宮前看年輕人表演的貢寮老人嘆氣說,但都快要蓋好了,你能拿政府怎麼辦?

The elder sat in front of the temple in Aodi and watched the performance of some young people (from NONUKE). He sighed, ‘Of course I am scared that the nuclear power plant is so close to my home.’ However, the construction is about to finish. What can you do with the government?

In Japan, there are also some lonely protesters opposed to nuclear power plants there. The residents (less than 500) in Iwaishima (祝島) [zh] have protested against the local nuclear power plant for more than 28 years:

儘管平均年齡已65歲,這群阿伯阿母、阿公阿嬤仍不放棄對抗蠻橫的國家機器,「我們不想千年流傳下來的海被污染」。

Although the average of age of these protesters is over 65, these elders have not given up the protest against their outrageous government. They say, ‘The sea has been handed down by our ancestors for thousands of years. We do not want to see it polluted.’
Protest against the fourth nuclear power plant in 2010. Image by Alvin Chua (CC BY 2.0).

Protest against the fourth nuclear power plant in 2010. Image by Alvin Chua (CC BY 2.0).

After the greatest earthquake in the recorded history of Japan took place this month, there was worry over the type of fuel used in reactor unit 3 of the country's damaged Fukushima I nuclear power plant:

Largely absent from most mainstream media reports on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is the fact that a highly-dangerous ‘mixed-oxide’ (MOX) fuel is present in six percent of the fuel rods at the plant's Unit 3 reactor.

However, not many people know that six months ago a concern group [jp] formed by Japanese elders (福島老朽原発を考える会) for the Fukushima I nuclear power plant traveled all the way to Tokyo to protest against the Tokyo Electricity Power Company and the use of MOX fuels:

運転開始34年の老朽炉に10年以上前の古い燃料を使うという無茶をするのに、県民への説明は一切なしというのはどういうことか。

They are pushing it far by using old fuel from ten years ago, in a 34-year-old aging reactor, and there no explanation given to the residents of the Prefecture. What is this all about?

止まらぬ燃料漏えいへの対処、電源喪失事故の原因究明、格納容器の耐震強度問題等々、危険なプルサーマルの前に東電には対処すべきことが山積している。東電にプルサーマル炉の運転を任せることなどとてもできない。

Finding a way to stop the continuous fuel leakage, investigating the cause of the power loss incident, solving the issues regarding the earthquake-resistance strength of the containment vessel, etc, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has tons of things to deal with before implementing the plutonium-thermal reactor. It is outrageous to even allow TEPCO to operate a plutonium-thermal reactor.

Roodo blogger Summerlake, after seeing the photos [zh] of the elders’ protest in Tokyo, said:

孤單的幾個人站在熱鬧的街頭上,顯得突兀,沒有媒體願意傾聽,沒有社會大眾願意相信,他們微弱而真實的聲音。貢寮鄉親在台北城街頭的身影,突然那麼令人難過。大家在哪裡?

The lonely protesters were standing on the busy streets. They looked so odd in the city. There were no media listening to them. No one willing to believe in their weak but sincere voices. The images of the residents from Gongliao standing on the streets in Taipei city suddenly made me very sad. Where are the other people?
Acknowledgment: Thanks Hanako Tokita for the Japanese-English translation.
  • http://www.mirrorsignalmove.blogspot.com mike

    “‘Of course I am scared that the nuclear power plant is so close to my home.’ However, the construction is about to finish. What can you do with the government?”

    That old man is exactly right to put that question because it gets straight to the heart of the matter – these fights will continue to happen unless either (a) we get nuclear fusion sometime soon, or (b) a concerted effort is made by the people of Taiwan to depoliticize the energy industry and remove the State from the business of monopolizing regulation and providing subsidies – and not just for coal, oil, gas and nuclear – but for all forms of energy production.

    As to the mixed oxide fuel; unless I am missing something, the plutonium it contains is bound within a crystalline structure and thus cannot be aerosolized – it will not therefore escape as airborne radioisotopes. To call it “highly-dangerous” without reference to how it could become “highly dangerous” is irresponsible and liable to incite further panic.

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