An analysis of Taiwan's quest to build a nuclear society as a strategy to address issues of state legitimacy
KeywordsPhilosophy, religion and theology
Health and environmental sciences
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AbstractByrne, John M.
This research argues that nuclear power has been used in modern society to legitimate the claim of a scientific foundation for a technocratic state. In particular, this research explores how the unique, unsettled state legitimacy of Taiwan led to a response by the Kuomintang (KMT), also known as the Chinese National Party, to reclaim legitimacy through the launch of a civilian nuclear power strategy. Nuclear power was promoted by the government as a means of securing economic growth to overcome the global economic challenge. Government officials also used the promise of potential benefits that would follow from having nuclear power as precursors for personal freedom that would come from the expanding free market system. On the other hand, nuclear power negatively affected civil rights through a series of accidents and mistakes associated with the nuclear industry itself. In Taiwan, under more democratic circumstances after the mid-1990s, this contradiction would be denied by technocracy, partisan politics and the coercive influence of money and power from the political and economic systems. As a result, the fourth nuclear could be endorsed by the Legislative Yuan and justified on economic grounds until the Fukushima crisis. However, the three risk tendencies described previously—irrationality of risk calculus, technocracy, and organized irresponsibility—would propel the state to ignore civil society concerns about risky technologies, thereby enabling the revival of Taiwan’s anti-nuclear movement in the post-Fukushima era.The revival of civil society is evaluated as an important force for change in the post-Fukushima era. Conversely, the renewal of Taiwan’s anti-nuclear movement contributed to the revival of civil society, coevolving the legitimation crisis of the state and the halt of the fourth nuclear complex in 2014. Based on the analysis described in detail below, I conclude that the relationship between nuclear power and the legitimacy problem in Taiwan was a complex dynamic process of political, economic, cultural, environmental, and social conflicts, rather than a one-dimensional technical or economic problem.
University of Delaware, Energy and Environmental Policy Program