Taiwan to hold August referendum on restarting Lungmen

28 January 2021

A national referendum on activating Taiwan’s long-mothballed Lungmen nuclear power plant in New Taipei will be held on 28 August, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said on 20 January, confirming a date that had already been decided under the term of the Referendum Act.

The Act stipulates that national referenda can only be held once every two years from 2021, and only on the fourth Saturday of August. Referenda are a well-established policy-making tool in Taiwan.

Taiwan has four operating nuclear power reactors - two each at the Kuosheng and Maanshan plants - which account for around 15% electricity generation. Taiwan’s oldest operating nuclear plant, Chinshan ceased operations in 2018 and has officially entered decommissioning.

Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party was elected in 2016 on a policy of phasing out nuclear power by 2025. This called for Taiwan's six operable power reactors to be decommissioned when their 40-year operating licences expire. However, in 2018, Taiwan’s cabinet announced that following the results a referendum in November, it had agreed to abolish the 2025 phase out. The matter has since remained controversial with opinion divided on the issue.

Construction of Lungmen 1&2 (both 1350MWe ABWR units) began in 1999, but the project faced political and regulatory delays. Lungmen 1 was completed but mothballed in 2015, and construction of Lungmen 2 was suspended in 2014. State-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) in 2019 ruled out starting up the Lungmen plant, saying it would take at least six to seven years to begin commercial operations.

The CEC said in a statement that it will formally notify the public in May about which referenda will be held in August. The results of the referendums will be announced on 3 September. To date, only one referendum initiative, launched by nuclear power advocate Huang Shih-hsiu, has met the endorsement threshold required to be put to a vote. It asks: "Do you agree that the 4th Nuclear Power Plant be activated for commercial operations?"

For a referendum in Taiwan to pass, it must have at least 25% of eligible voters cast ballots for it, setting a relatively high turnout threshold, and must also garner more votes in favour than against.

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