Clashes as anti-nuclear protests hit Taiwan

Activists shout slogans during an anti-nuclear protest in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei on 27 April, 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Chanting crowds gathered in Taipei over the weekend to protest against a fourth nuclear plant

Police have clashed with protesters demanding construction on Taiwan's fourth nuclear plant be stopped.

Police used water cannon early on Monday to disperse thousands of demonstrators blocking a main traffic route in Taiwan's capital, Taipei.

The governing Kuomintang Party agreed on Sunday to temporarily suspend work on two nuclear reactors but have so far refused to halt the project altogether.

The move comes amid mounting public concern over nuclear safety.

Protestors gathered in Taipei over the weekend and have pledged to continue their sit-in until Tuesday. Many have refused to leave without an official government announcement.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Water cannons were used by police on Monday to disperse crowds of protesters
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The public fears a repeat of the Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster
Image copyright AP
Image caption Demonstrators have refused to vacate the protest site

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou had said the government would hold a referendum on the issue before the plant began operating.

Taiwan relies on nuclear power for about 18% of its energy needs. The remaining three nuclear power plants would have to function longer if the fourth one does not start operations as planned, the economic ministry said.

Taiwan's first nuclear plant is set to be decommissioned from 2018 while the second plant is set to close between 2021 and 2023.

The fourth plant will be located in northern New Taipei City, the most populous city in Taiwan.

Opponents of the fourth nuclear power plant say that it will dangerous given that Taiwan is located in an earthquake zone, reports the BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei.

Supporters, which include the governing Kuomintang Party, argue that the fourth plant will be much safer than Japan's Fukushima plant, which was crippled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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