EDITORIAL: No looking back on nuclear power


As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events – evidence of rapidly advancing climate change – are wreaking havoc around the world.

Floods have hit the UK, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, China, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and New Zealand this year, while that forest fires have devastated parts of California, Australia, Turkey and Greece.

Today, energy shortages, born in part from surging demand as economies emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns and in part from commitments to ambitious net zero carbon emissions policies, provide even more headaches to governments, businesses and people around the world.

China’s current energy problems stem from a combination of increased factory orders, its ban on energy-efficient Newcastle-grade coal from Australia, and Chinese President Xi’s economic decarbonization policy. Jinping (習近平).

Heavy reliance on renewables in Europe and the United States has made the electricity supply vulnerable to high gas prices, and soaring prices have also forced governments to rely more on sources. dirty ”, such as coal, to fill the gap.

The case for nuclear, as a complementary carbon neutral part of a country’s energy mix, begins to sound more appealing, especially when new technologies promise to alleviate the major problem of long-term storage of nuclear energy. toxic spent nuclear fuel rods.

The government’s policy of a “nuclear-free homeland” by 2025 makes sense in a country that experiences frequent earthquakes and aging nuclear reactors that have been or are about to be decommissioned.

Currently, 12.7% of Taiwan’s energy comes from nuclear power, of which 40.8% comes from gas, 36.4% from coal and 5.8% from renewables. The government wants to change this mix after 2025 to 50 percent natural gas, 30 percent coal and 20 percent renewables.

The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 in Japan turned public opinion strongly against nuclear power, but this catastrophe happened ten years ago and people have short memories.

One of the referendums passed in November 2018 asked whether the government should abolish the clause requiring nuclear power plants to shut down by 2025, showing that public opinion was already rallying to the idea of ​​maintaining the nuclear power plant. nuclear power in the energy mix.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced in April that Taiwan should strive for net zero carbon emissions by 2050, making the transition from nuclear power even more difficult.

The issue of the stability of energy supply was placed at the center of the national debate after two nationwide blackouts in the same week of May.

On December 18, there is to be another referendum, initiated by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), calling on the government to restart construction of the fourth nuclear power plant in the Gongliao district of New Taipei City (貢 寮).

The Progressive Democratic Party accused the KMT of initiating the referendum for purely political purposes, but the KMT has always expressed its preference for including nuclear power in the country’s energy mix.

Taiwan’s geology makes the continued operation of nuclear power plants unwise, and improvements in reactor technology should not obscure these inherent dangers, nor does the Tohoku disaster occur ten years ago. years.

The government must stand firm on the transition from nuclear power. Recent events – domestic and international – and new commitments will make the argument harder to make, but it’s an argument the government must win before December 18.

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