Over 2,000 rally against nuclear plants in Taiwan

AFP , Sunday 20 Mar 2011

Two thousand demand immediate halt to construction of atomic power plant in Taiwan

A protester shouts and holds a slogan to protest against the ongoing construction of the fourth nuclear power plant on the island, Sunday, (AP).

Around 2,000 anti-nuclear protesters demonstrated in Taiwan on Sunday, demanding an immediate halt to the construction of an atomic power plant.

The march comes amid a crisis in Japan after a huge quake on March 11 unleashed a tsunami which crippled an atomic plant 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

"In the face of Japan's nuclear crisis... Taiwan should stick to the goal of building itself in a non-nuclear homeland, so that our offspring will be free from any fears of nuclear disasters," Lee Chuo-han, the secretary-general of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, told AFP.

The flag-waving and chanting protesters demanded that work on the island's fourth nuclear power plant, which is nearly complete, be halted immediately.

The project has been marred by controversy since the then governing Democratic Progressive Party scrapped the partially-built plant in 2000, plunging the island into months of political turmoil.

It was reinstated the following year at huge extra cost to the government.

Local media said the delays had blown up the budget for the plant to about $9 billion, compared with a budget of about $3 billion when the project got off the ground in the 1990s.

The demonstrators are also opposed to plans by the state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) to extend the lifespan of its three existing nuclear plants after their licences expire.

Taiwan's government is reviewing a Taipower application to extend the operating licence of its first nuclear plant, which is due to expire in 2017, almost four decades after it opened.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who has said he wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2025, and then halve that figure by 2050, said last week that Taiwan's nuclear power policy will proceed unabated although he ordered a safety review for the plants.

Electricity generated by the three nuclear power plants accounts for 20 percent of the island's power supply.

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