Since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in March 2011, 53 out of the 54 nuclear power plants in Japan have been shut down for security checks. On May 5, 2012, the proportion of Japan's energy supplied by nuclear power reached zero for the first time in 42 years, following the shut down of Tomari’s Unit 3 in Hokkaido. Although the Japanese government is currently seeking to restart some nuclear power plants, local representatives still have serious concerns regarding their safety.
In Taiwan, many people have also started talking about the possibility of moving towards a nuclear-free future. The Taiwan Environmental Protection Union [zh] is optimistic about the nuclear-free movement in Japan, as quoted in Coolloud.org:
After the earthquake of March 11, 2011, the nuclear power plants in Japan have been shut down one by one. So far they have not had any problems with electricity shortages. If they can survive this summer without nuclear energy, Japan could really become a nuclear-free nation.
Anti-nuclear energy protest in Taipei, March 11, 2012. Photo contributed to this post by James Yang under CC: BY-NC-SA
Su Huan-Chi, a candidate for chairperson with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), also stated [zh] in Plurk, a popular social media website in Taiwan, that:
If I were elected as the Party chairperson, I would campaign for a referendum to stop the four nuclear power plants in Taipei city, New Taipei city, Keelung and Yilan.
Nevertheless, not everyone is so optimistic about the nuclear-free development in Japan. bluesystem [zh] is worried how far Japan can go after shutting down all their nuclear power plants:
廢核絕對可以推! 只要不影響經濟下滑. 不過這真的會很拼…
Of course we can campaign for a nuclear-free Taiwan – as long as this move does not make the economy worse. However, this will be difficult.
核能的問題不只是使用其它能源來替代, 而是「能源自主性」的問題. 一旦重要的能源來源被別國控制, 那這個國家等於廢掉一樣! 這問題要怎麼解決? 除非能源自主率能提高吧~…那大家都廢核, 請問天然資源是不是大家一起搶? 假設台灣也搞廢核的話,能源來源方面搶得贏中國跟日本嗎?
The issue at stake regarding the use of nuclear power is not only about finding alternative energy. It is a matter of ‘energy autonomy’. If the major energy source is controlled by other countries, this country is doomed! How can we solve this problem? Only if we can increase our energy supply can we campaign for nuclear-free living. Are we ready to compete for natural energy resources? If Taiwan shuts down all our nuclear power plants, can we outbid China and Japan in the competition of energy resources?
Anti-nuclear energy protest in Taipei, April 30, 2011. Photo contributed to this post by James Yang under CC: BY-NC-SA
Despite the aforementioned worries, thousands of Taiwanese people protested against nuclear power on March 11, 2012, the first anniversary of the earthquake in Japan. Shuchuan, an independent environmental reporter, explained [zh] why she thinks Taiwan can and should give up nuclear energy:
The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident destroyed the myth of nuclear safety. We see that one accident can destroy all we have…We have no reason not to think about the possibility of giving up nuclear energy when we still have a choice.
In Taiwan, the proportion of electricity supplied by nuclear power is less than 20%, but our spare capacity is more than 25%. Under this condition, nuclear-free is not an issue of ‘can or cannot’, it is an issue of determination.
The Taiwanese government estimates that we will need 38% more electricity in the future. If we do not go back to to the fundamental problem and review our energy consumption pattern and use electricity in a smarter way, there will never be enough for us even if we manage to generate more.
In the past year, the Taiwanese government has changed. President Ma claimed that our first, second, and third nuclear power plants would not extend their operations after reaching their shelf life. We have made some progress. However, the government is not willing to give up the fourth nuclear power plant and is throwing more money into it. The government does not know how to deal with the nuclear waste, but they keep claiming that they can promise the safety of nuclear power plants. Nevertheless, when we think of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, we can see that this is nonsense and it is not convincing to talk of the ‘safety of nuclear power plants’. In the end, the Taiwanese government does not seem aware of the possibility of nuclear disasters.
We should support the fundamental standpoint of a ‘nuclear-free Taiwan’ and explore the use of alternative energy. If we do not have enough alternative energy to replace all the nuclear-derived electricity we are using now and in the near future, we need to reduce our usage of electricity to avoid shortages. In other words, we need to think about our limits and make the change.
This post was sub-edited by Jane Ellis.