Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian has promised to hold a referendum on or before 20 March 2004 ­ the date of the next presidential elections ­ on whether to scrap the Lungmen project.

To carry out a referendum, the Legislative Yuan must first pass a referendum law. Such a move would risk severely damaging relations with China, which has described the referendum plans as a sign of Taiwan’s “creeping towards independence.” A referendum law would, in theory, open the way for Taiwan to hold a referendum to vote on independence from China, or changing the country’s official name, flag or constitution.

Chen promised before his election to stop construction of the plant, which is around 50% complete. His government halted construction in October 2000, but had to allow it to restart when the Council of Grand Justices found procedural flaws in the decision.

The reactor pressure vessel for the first of the two 1350MWe ABWRs arrived at the site in June. Unit 1 is due to be completed in 2006.