By Mr. Huang Ti-Ying (黃帝穎) Lawyer and Lecturer
In February 2013, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus wished to pass a budget allocating more money for the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant at Gongliao ("Nuke 4") while maintaining a position of "build first, ask questions later." Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chair Su Tseng-chang had this to say: "There are also some within the KMT expressing a desire to stop the construction of Nuke 4. If they want to stop its construction, they shouldn't let the budget pass."
After the nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima reactor, countries around the world began re-examining their policies on nuclear power. Germany—a country with advanced technology and rule of law—took the lead by stopping the resumption of construction on seven nuclear power plants, and Chancellor Angela Merkel declared she would abandon nuclear power as soon as possible. This showed the constitutional spirit of a democratic nation under the rule of law which safeguards its citizens' lives and their environment.
In addition, approximately 250,000 Germans took to the streets to express their determination for a "non-nuclear consensus." But Taiwan is located in a seismic zone. In an international news report listing 14 high-risk nuclear plants, all four of Taiwan's plants made the list. Yet we haven't seen any concrete reviews of nuclear energy policies or changes of strategy by the Ma Ying-jeou administration.
Article 15 of the Constitution expressly guarantees the people's "right to exist." The second item of Article 10 of the Additional Articles states that "Environmental and ecological protection shall be given equal consideration with economic and technological development." In other words, the government has an active obligation to protect the people's "existence". When it comes to national economic and technological development, the government still has the obligation to continually reassess environmental policies and ecological impacts. Therefore, while advanced countries around the globe were reassessing nuclear policies because of the Fukushima disaster, President Ma lacked the ability to propose concrete countermeasures, violating the obligation of the government to protect the people's right to survive as well as abiding by its duty to protect the environment and the ecology.
Furthermore, Article 23 of the Basic Environment Act [http://law.epa.gov.tw/en/laws/811708521.html#art23] states that "The government shall establish plans to gradually achieve the goal of becoming a nuclear-free country. The government shall also strengthen nuclear safety management and control, protections against radiation, and the management of radioactive materials and monitoring of environmental radiation to safeguard the public from the dangers of radiation exposure." In essence, the legislators have already given the government the duty to progress toward a non-nuclear homeland, yet we have not seen President Ma's government take any actions as required by law.
According to Justices of the Constitutional Court, Judicial Yuan, J.Y. No. 520 (http://www.judicial.gov.tw/constitutionalcourt/p03_01.asp?expno=520), [sic] in light of its differences from an ordinary statutory bill in terms of contents, regulatory target, and resolution process.
Whether it is constitutional or lawful for an [administrative] agency charged with administering the budget to withhold a portion of the designated expenditure in that budget in its discretion should depend upon the circumstances. For funds designated for the maintenance of an agency’s normal operations and carrying out its legally authorized duties, such a withholding is not permitted by law if it were to affect the existence of that agency; for withholding that meets the conditions under the Budget Act and does not involve adjustment of a critical national policy, the authorized agency may, in its discretion that fits the duties of that agency, reduce the budgetary expenses or adjust the implementation of a [given] budget. With regard to a major policy change that involves the withholding of a statutory budget, based upon the constitutional purpose that the Executive Yuan shall be responsible to the Legislative Yuan, and in respect of the right of the Legislative Yuan to participate in the decision- making process regarding critical national issues, in accordance with Article 3 of the Amendment of the Constitution and Article 17 of the Legislative Yuan Functioning Act, the Premier or related ministers of the Executive Yuan shall within reasonable time submit a report to the Legislative Yuan and subject [themselves] to interpellation. In light of its effect on energy reserves, the environment, and related industries, and in consideration of its past policy-forming process as well as the complexity in the disposition of the aftermath in the event such withholding should indeed be carried out, the present statutory budget item that the Executive Yuan meeting resolved to withhold is indeed a change of a critical national policy that the above procedural requirement must be met as soon as possible.
In other words, if the government genuinely intends to build a non-nuclear homeland, with regards to the issue of whether to halt ongoing construction of Nuke 4, all it has to do is simply submit a report to Legislative Yuan and prepare themselves for interpellation. Unfortunately, Ma's government is unwilling to keep pace with the global trend towards developing a non-nuclear planet.
The recent Japanese experience informed us that any debate pertains to nuclear disaster should not narrowly focus on the scientific probability, it should also answer the question of whether the people can afford such an incident. Hypothetically speaking, in the case of a malfunction in Nuclear Power Plants No. 1, 2 or 4, a mandatory evacuation will be issued to instantaneously remove several million people within 30 kilometers radius. The gravity of such evacuation is akin to removing every person from a metropolis such as Taipei. A displacement of this magnitude is not only unattainable—it is inconceivable because the defunct capital will paralyze our government, the nuclear pollutant will subject people to long term health effects, the economy and trade will incur tremendous losses, and the cost of disaster recovery will put a strain on our Treasury. Simply put, the price is astronomical.
Chanting the slogan of “governance as dictated by law”, President Ma elides the mandate of the Basic Environment Act. If the President fails to measure up to the global gravitation towards nuclear-free world, or if he is incapable of fulfilling his statutory obligations to protect the health and well-being of the public, or preserve the ecosystem and quality of our environment, then perhaps Mr. Ma should consider relinquishing the power of the Presidential office.
Translated in English by the DPP School of Translation. Original Mandarin text published on March 5, othe website of the DPP's Thinktank, the New Frontier Foundation, found at http://www.dppnff.tw/group_data.php?id=138&data=comment