Taiwan needs to embrace clean energy

I co-signed the following letter which was published in the Taipei Times today.

Is there an unfortunate misunderstanding about German politics and history among some Taiwanese?

After two of us had to clarify the path Germany took to abolish the death penalty, (“Real deal behind abolition,” March 17, 2011, page 8), we now have to clarify a misrepresentation of the anti-nuclear stance of Germany’s Green Party (“Anti-nuclear protesters confronted by Taipower ‘thug’ police: DPP lawmaker,” Sept. 10, page 3).

Contrary to allegations made in an article on Taipower’s Web site, the German Green Party was partly founded by people emerging from the popular anti-nuclear movement formed during the 1970s. It always had a staunch and unwavering anti-nuclear platform, and, most importantly, has been a key factor in pushing Germany toward a path of sustainable energy based on clean renewable energy and away from dirty coal and potentially calamitous nuclear fuel.

Germany is now a world leader in producing and installing renewable energy, such as wind power, thanks in large part to the Green Party’s insistence of giving clean energy a chance during its stay of power in German’s national government in the early 2000s. Continue reading

Music and No Nukes on Fulong Beach

Hohaiyan Music Festival on Fulong Beach

Yesterday I attended the first day of the 2011 Hohaiyan Music Festival (海洋音樂祭) at Fulong Beach. The festival, organised by the New Taipei City (formerly Taipei County) Government, has been running since 2000. The festival has two stages with the main stage on Fulong Beach. There are also food stalls and toilets set up on the beach and a huge staff to keep things running smoothly.

No Nukes group at Hohaiyan

When I arrived on the beach I saw members of the No Nukes group (諾怒客) handing out posters and talking to people. It is a reminder that just a few kilometres away from this beautiful beach the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is under construction.   Continue reading

Vision for a sustainable future

Bruno Walther sent the following letter to the Taipei Times last week. The Taipei Times published a second letter that he also sent last week. He has given me permission to post the first letter here.

Ever since the nuclear catastrophe began in Japan, I was just waiting for somebody to step forward with the argument ‘but given all the environmental problems caused by fossil fuels, isn’t nuclear energy the lesser of two evils?” I didn’t have to wait long, as the Taipei Times’ editorial repeated this tired and old propaganda of the nuclear energy industry (“The irrational fear of invisible agents,” Mar. 22, page 8). While overall, nuclear energy may be the lesser of two evils, it is still an evil, capable of disseminating radiation and thereby increasing cancer rates considerably in affected populations. Worse, it leaves us with thousands of tons of the most toxic and dangerous waste for hundreds of thousands of years. Who in his or her right mind would place such a burden of responsibility on future generations who have no benefit from our wasteful ways?

Continue reading

The cost of nuclear power

Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and Fulong Beach

Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant under construction in August 2009 with Fulong Beach in the foreground.

I had a letter in the Taipei Times today on the subject of nuclear power. It argues that the high cost and long lead times of nuclear power projects defers investment in cleaner and safer forms of electricity generation. The text of the letter is below followed by details about anti-nuclear protests in Taipei. Continue reading

No Nukes Concert at Fulong

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When I got off the train in Fulong (福隆) yesterday afternoon there was a bit of cloud cover and a sea breeze making the temperature a little more bearable than in Taipei. While many people come to Fulong to cool off at the beach I headed to the area in front of the Dongxing Temple (東興宮) for the No Nukes Concert (諾努客之環境音樂會).

2009 08 02_no-nukes-fulong_4503

An article by T.C. Chang explains the reasons for holding the concert. Chang writes that Gongliao is a very important place in the history of Taiwan’s environment movement. In 2000 the Taipei County Government began holding the Ho Hai Yan Music Festival (海洋音樂祭)  on Fulong Beach. In the early years of this annual festival the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance (GCAA; 綠色公民行動聯盟) held activities to inform people about the nuclear power plant. However, Ho Hai Yan has become very commercialised the GCAA decided to hold their own concert to return to the original spirit of Gongliao.

The fourth nuclear power plant is clearly visible at the end of the beach (see top photo) and served as a constant reminder of the reason for holding the concert. The construction of the plant has been subject to many delays and it is not expected to commence operating until 2012. Continue reading

No nukes for Taitung

The TITV report* in the video embedded above is about a protest against nuclear waste in Taitung held at Ximending in Taipei on 28 June. The government of Taiwan is seeking to relocate the nuclear waste currently stored on Orchid Island to a new location. A report in the Taipei Times provides a good summary of the situation.

The Taiwan Power Co (Taipower Co) announced in April that Daren Township (達仁) in Taitung County was one of two candidate locations for a nuclear waste storage facility.

As a vast majority of residents, county officials, councilors and political leaders from the other site in Wangan Township (望安), Penghu County, voiced strong opposition to the plan, many have come to believe that Daren — a traditional domain of the Paiwan tribe — will be selected.

Some of Daren’s residents, including the township mayor, support the plan, hoping that a promised NT$5 billion (US$151 million) payment would help resolve poverty, while others oppose it because of worries that such a facility would destroy the environment.

Please read the article I wrote a couple of years ago about the search for a nuclear waste storage site in Taiwan. As I said in that article, it is no accident that nuclear waste is imposed on the poorest and most marginalised communities. The pattern of buying off people with promises of infrastructure and jobs continues.

The process of developing a nuclear waste storage site also shows a frightening disregard for democratic process. In December the Presbyterian Church reported that the government was spying on church activities in Taitung. In particular government authorities made enquiries about church activities opposed to nuclear waste. At a public hearing on nuclear waste storage in Taitung in April two environmental activists were illegally detained by police for two hours to prevent them from protesting or speaking at the meeting.

I offer no solutions to the intractable problem of nuclear waste storage. The continuing presence of nuclear waste on Orchid Island is an abomination. The relocation of the waste to another indigenous community on the mainland is also unacceptable. How can governments allow the construction of nuclear power plants when they have no clear plan for the long-term storage of nuclear waste?

*The video comes from TITV Weekly produced by Taiwan Indigenous Television (台灣原住民電視台). The English language program can be viewed via its YouTube Channel. It is a good source of news about issues affecting indigenous peoples in Taiwan.