by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) Feb 19, 2013
Taiwan's main opposition party Tuesday called for a halt to construction of a long-delayed nuclear plant ahead of planned island-wide protests brought about by renewed safety concerns.
Debate over the island's fourth nuclear power facility, under construction for nearly 14 years and still not completed, is heating up as parliament prepares to review an additional budget of up to Tw$40 billion ($1.4 billion).
"We hope the government will soon decide to stop building the nuclear plant rather than approving the additional budget," said Su Tseng-chang, chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party.
Worries about Taiwan's atomic facilities mounted after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, crippling a nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
About 50,000 people from 100 civic groups are planning to stage mass anti-nuclear protests across Taiwan on March 9 to urge the authorities to heed the lesson of the Japanese catastrophe, according to organisers.
Taiwan's government has said that it is unlikely to scrap the three nuclear plants or halt building the fourth one, to be located near Taipei, as the island is heavily reliant on energy imports.
Construction on the fourth nuclear power plant began in 1999 and it was originally scheduled to be completed by 2004, but political wrangling over the controversial project has caused delay after delay.
The three existing plants account for 20 percent of Taiwan's total electricity supply. Their earthquake-resistant designs have been upgraded following the Japanese disaster, according to the government.
Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.
In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude quake killed around 2,400 people in what was the deadliest natural disaster in the island's recent history.
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