Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nuclear Safety: Taiwan Dawdles Behind the Philippines

(Controlled explosion: Wikipedia)

From the Hanji Chinese Language Liberty Times 24 June 2012

Nuclear Safety: Taiwan Dawdles Behind the Philippines
By TSAI Yain

Recent news reports picked up on Prof. CHEN Zhenghong’s warnings that an eruption of the Datun volcanoes could result in two to three meters of ash falling on the nearby first and second nuclear plants. CHEN, former deputy minister of the National Science Council is currently a professor of geology at National Taiwan University. In response, Atomic Energy Council Minister TSAI Chunhong has said if we really were to encounter such a scenario he has no idea how to handle it.

CHEN’s warnings bring to mind the 1990 film “Dreams” by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, where the sixth “dream” describes an eruption of Mount Fuji and the resulting molten lava spills onto six nearby nuclear power reactors. As the people flee from the exploding plants, a person cries: “Japan is too small; we simply have nowhere to hide!” Finally they flee to the beach, and with nowhere to escape, they jump into the sea. Even the dolphins can’t escape the disaster. Meanwhile, nuclear power personnel, in their protective suits and ties look on as the sky fills with highly toxic plutonium 239, strontium 90, cesium 137 and other deadly isotopes forming radioactive clouds. They exclaim how the folly of humankind surpasses all imagination. Given their understanding of immense pain and suffering in store for those exposed to high doses of radiation, the “suits” apologize to the people around them before taking their own lives by jumping into the apocalyptic ocean.

This 20-year-old film is now seen as somewhat prophetic in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. While these words of warning failed to prevent the Fukushima nuclear disaster, perhaps it is not too late for Taiwan to heed the warning? Could Taiwan prevent a nuclear catastrophe if the Datun volcanoes erupted?

Taiwan’s first and second nuclear plants, with a total of four reactors are built next to the Datun volcanic group. An eruption would surely lead to nuclear disaster; and with Taiwan being much smaller than Japan, we would have even less chance of escape. With the Atomic Energy Council’s minister admitting that he does not know how to deal with such a disaster what are ordinary people expected to think or do?

The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the Philippines was built close to volcanoes and faults. Although the construction was completed, for security reasons, the plant has never gone into operation. The first and second nuclear power plants in Taiwan lie on active faults near the Datun volcanoes. Their proximity to metropolitan areas means that a serious nuclear incident would affect millions of people. It is absolutely imperative that the government moves now to decommission these plants and remove this insanely cataclysmic threat to the people of Taiwan.

Yain TSAI is a lawyer with the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan and also chairs the Environmental Law Committee of the Taipei Bar Association.

核安 菲律賓比下台灣

◎ 蔡雅瀅


這 則新聞令人想起一九九○年日本導演黑澤明拍攝的電影「夢」,片中第六個夢「赤富士」,描述富士山岩漿噴發時,核電廠的六座反應爐接二連三地爆炸。民眾紛紛 逃難,其中一人說:日本太小,我們根本無處可逃。最後逃到海邊,發現無處可逃的人們都跳海,連海豚也逃走,穿西裝的核電人員看著空氣中充滿劇毒的鈽 239、鍶90、銫137等輻射雲,感嘆:人類的愚行真是匪夷所思。了解暴露高劑量輻射後果的核電人員,不願忍受未來漫長的病痛折磨,向周遭的人道歉後, 跳海自盡。




Thursday, June 21, 2012

Update: FPG-Tsuang lawsuit

In what many believe to be a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) where two Formosa Plastics affiliates filed a lawsuit against Professor Tsuang Ben-jei (莊秉潔) of National Chung Hsing University’s (NCHU) department of environmental engineering because they claim that  he said emissions from FPG's sixth naphtha cracker plant in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮) resulted in a higher cancer occurrence rate amongst nearby residents which has injured FPG's reputation. The criminal suit brought by two Formosa Plastics affiliates that are also investors in the Mailiao off shore facility has been dismissed – i.e., non indictment. FPG can “appeal.”  However, a civil suit is still pending and this could be different. It is good to see that the courts dismissed the criminal suit where it seemed that the motive was nothing more to silence and scare anyone who dares to speak out against Formosa Plastics. Lets hope the civil suit is seen as nothing more than an attack on academic freedom and the right to free speech.

Also see:
Formosa (FPG) suppressing academic freedom and freedom of speech?
Let’s All Pick a Fight with Formosa Plastics 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Huben Epitaph

Hushan's Yucing valley before it was dug out to make way for the highly controversial Hushan Dam.

Yucing valley when the earth-movers got busy.

Pleasantries exchanged on the roadside. “Lunch?” “Yes, that would be lovely.” And so I found myself sitting down to dumplings in a typical Taiwanese dumpling joint making polite small talk. “See anything good at Augu this morning?” “No, it was very quiet. Not much around.” “Don’t know how you can spend so much time looking at those black and white waders. Hit the forests more. Colourful birds there and it’s so much prettier than the West Coast.” And then it happened! “Been to Huben lately?” “Yes, last week.” I feel my blood stirring. In an attempt to gain control of my run-away emotions I blurt out, “Saw two Pitta. Heard a Maroon Oriole.” And at that point the wave of anger held inside broke on the shores of my heart. “Huben’s fucked!” There was no disguising my feelings in the way I spat out those words.

Yucing valley being put to the grader.

All my intentions to remain calm and not to get emotional went out the window. I could see the look in his eyes; the judgment. He didn’t need to say anything. It was written all over his face. “Too much time in the sun. Irrational. Emotional. Unstable.”

And the forest is cleared to make way for the water demands of heavy industry.

So smooth. So controlled. And with calmness etched onto his face with perhaps just a hint of a condescending smirk he replied. “That bad? I don’t think it’s that bad. I mean it’s still a good birding spot.” I reply, “Compared to what it was, it’s finished; trashed!” “Oh, I don’t know about that.” And that level of anger within rocketed. “In 2006 there were forty pitta around the village. This year there are four! Four!!! In just six years forty to four. Huben is dead! Everywhere they’re doing the same. They’re concreting every bloody mountain stream they can. Before our eyes they’re destroying what’s left. On Saturday I saw those pitta and it struck me like a hammer. These are very likely the last of Huben’s pitta. What is a certainty is that my infant son will never enjoy seeing a pitta there by the time he’s six.”

Stripped and bleeding. The forest is no more.

My companion then continued calmly. He emphasized the need for a calm balanced approach and how he needed to find his niche in all this. I retorted, “The calm balanced approach has resulted in the loss of Huben. It hasn’t worked. Only when we say enough and get angry and take to the streets is there any hope of the destruction stopping.” For the first time the calm façade of Mr. Calmness showed a hint or irritation. “Taking to the streets has never helped anyone. It’s not going to save Huben.” Indignant I replied, “How would you know? It hasn’t been tried! It’s too late now. Huben is gone!”

Another stream disappears under concrete. Fairy Pitta nest on stream banks. This spot was a known Fairy Pitta nesting site.

I had had my say. Mr. Calmness wasn’t looking so calm anymore. It was written on his face. A change of topic. Dignity. A stiff upper lip was what was needed to selvage this most unfortunate lunch. I obliged.

Deforestation before our eyes. This happened just a few weeks ago.

Later as I reflected, I couldn’t help wondering if we’ve been so wired by our present environment and education system that even for people who clearly feel something for the natural world we have been so conditioned, programmed, to put the alleged need for what we’ve been taught is “progress” over that of the natural world. In the case of Huben it translates to, “I care about the Fairy Pitta but I mustn’t let that get in the way of progress.”

We need to be honest and we need to reflect. What does Huben represent? Huben isn’t just about Fairy Pitta and a dam. It represents the choice of irreversibly proceeding with development of the petrochemical industry at the expense of Taiwan’s natural environment or halting the damage and turning towards a more sustainable future before it was too late. This was about the tipping point on the West Coast.

And more concrete for the rivers.

The first thing we need to do is acknowledge that we failed miserably in protecting the Huben-Hushan IBA (Important Bird Area). Huben is lost. At one point there were scores of NGOs under the umbrella of the Taiwan National Coalition against the Hushan Dam. How many remain today? The issue was very much about protecting the Fairy Pittas' globally most important breeding area. There were several other less prominent but equally important other threatened species residing in the Huben-Hushan IBA.

The reason for the construction of the Hushan Reservoir is largely to supply the water needs for the expansion of heavy industry on the West Coast. Considering the toll that heavy industry takes on the environment it begs the question, “Do we want to go on polluting at even greater levels than we are now?” Apart from the corporations that stand to make even more money in the short term is anyone else going to benefit at all from greater levels of pollution and the destruction of what remains of the natural environment? The Fairy Pitta and Co in Huben aren’t. The critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins on the west coast aren’t. The farmers aren’t. The fishers aren’t. Our health isn’t. So then why the hell are we doing this then? Because of so called “development!” Because despite all the damage that we know is going to take place we have been conditioned to allow corporations to do whatever they like to make a quick buck.

So what went wrong? Why have we allowed this? We need to ask these questions. Those scores of NGOs need to look at where we went wrong and how this was allowed to happen. If we fail to do that then not only have we allowed Huben to be lost but then we have also gone and spat on its grave and that of the entire West Coast. Our only redemption is to learn from this. If we don’t then we have failed our children and future generations of Taiwan, human and nonhuman, utterly and entirely.

A Huben Fairy Pitta.