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Low turnout at anti-nuclear rally as Taiwan pins hope on new leader
by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) March 12, 2016

An annual anti-nuclear rally in Taiwan on Saturday saw a much lower turnout than previous years as president-elect Tsai Ing-wen vows to abolish the use of atomic energy on the island by 2025.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Taipei's Presidential Palace in the rain, many wearing yellow ribbons and stickers bearing the slogans "Say goodbye to nuclear" and "Nuclear go zero".

However, the crowd was noticeably smaller than the the thousands who joined last year's protest.

Organisers chalked up the demonstration's small showing to the Democratic Progressive Party's victory at the polls in January. The DPP has promised, along with a slew of new political parties set to enter parliament, to phase out the use of nuclear energy.

"Whether it's the DPP or the New Power Party, those that agree with creating a nuclear-free home have become the majority [in parliament]," Shu-Hsin Tsui, secretary general of Green Citizens' Action Alliance, told AFP.

Tsai, who will take office in May, on Saturday reiterated her party's plan to make Taiwan nuclear-free within a decade.

"To accomplish this goal, in addition to promoting energy efficiency we need to more importantly adjust the energy mix," the president-elect said in a Facebook post.

The DPP says it will put forward a raft of new energy policies once it takes office, including plans to increase the use of clean energy on the island.

Taiwan currently generates about one-fifth of its energy from three nuclear plants. In 2014, authorities were forced to seal off a nearly-completed fourth nuclear plant after public opposition.

The DPP has said it has no plans to restart the project.

The rally comes a day after Japan marked the fifth anniversary of a major nuclear disaster when the Fukushima energy plant was hit by a tsunami following an earthquake, knocking out power to its cooling systems and sending reactors into meltdown.

Taiwan, like Japan, is prone to frequent quakes as the island lies on a number of fault lines.

Protesters on Saturday also called on the government to propose new measures to safely store nuclear waste.

"There hasn't been a comprehensive plan to deal with nuclear waste. We need to face this for our children," said Elvin Wu, 35, who attended the rally with her five-year-old daughter.

"If the waste can't be effectively processed, then we hope that the nuclear plants will be shut."

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