Thursday, 7 March 2013

4th Nuclear Power Plant Debate: Propaganda Radiating From Both Supporters & Detractors

"The civic group [the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance - ed] said that while Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) has “threatened” the public by saying that electricity prices would rise sharply if nuclear power is abandoned — promoting the misconception that the nation must choose between tolerating potential risks to public safety or expensive electricity — other energy options exist."
So writes Lee I-chia in the Taipei Times today.

One particularly poor aspect of the ensuing debate in Taiwan about nuclear power, and specifically of the fourth nuclear power plant in Gongliao, is that both sides tend to make vague, slippery claims through which a prediction is implied, but never spelled out.

To begin with, there is the claim from supporters that if the plant is not completed then there will either be electricity price rises or electricity shortages - and yet this claim depends upon other conditions that aren't mentioned, such as the lack of new power plant construction elsewhere. If other power stations are built at the same time that construction is halted at the fourth nuclear power plant, then the prediction of electricity shortages (and possibly also of higher electricity prices) could well turn out to be false (assuming a growth curve in electricity demand of about 2% per annum, then an additional 1,908 MW capacity operating at 30% efficiency must be added to the grid every year to keep up). Moreover, what type of power stations might be built in lieu of the fourth nuclear power plant (and more specifically, their various costs) is also a question of direct relevance to the claim of future power shortages or price increases, and yet the article quoted above cites only a projected cost for the nuclear power plant, and not the projected costs of the alternatives (e.g. installing enough solar panels on rooftops to cover the surface area of Taipei city many times over).

In converse to the supporters' claims about future shortages and price increases, there is the claim from detractors that if the fourth nuclear power plant is completed then public safety will be jeopardized, and yet this claim depends on the vague possibility of unstated consequences. One of the observations I made during and after the crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011 was the way in which events were immediately sensationalized in Taiwan's media in a manner which was heavy on emotive terms (e.g. "catastrophe") and light on actual facts. Just last night - almost two years after Fukushima - I asked a university student how many people she thought had died due to the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, and when she didn't know I gently suggested figures to her - 500? 1000? - to which she quickly assented to (she believed 1,000), and yet the real number was... 3. Just three people died, and their deaths did not result from exposure to radiation. What I think this shows is that the anti-nuclear movement (and their allies in the media) rely on scaremongering tactics at least as much, if not more than, their opponents.

You really need to wear a Hazmat suit to wade through all the nonsense. 

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