Nuclear Paradise

A nuclear power plant in a national park
Ma’anshan Nuclear Power Plant in the midst of Kenting National Park.

This is the view from Guānshān 關山, a coral outcrop on the southwestern tip of Hengchun Peninsula 恆春半島 in historic Héngchūn 恆春, Pingtung 屏東. Everything in sight is found within Kenting National Park 墾丁國家公園, a major tourist attraction and home to some of the finest beaches in Taiwan. The distinctive rocky outcrop on the left is Dàjiānshíshān 大尖石山 (literally Big Sharp Stone Mountain), the infamous Kenting Street 墾丁大街 can be discerned as a cluster of buildings just to the left of the wind turbine, and the vivid waters intruding from the right are those of South Bay 南灣.

The function of the twin buildings in the middle of the photograph may surprise you. This is the heart of the Mǎ’ānshān Nuclear Power Plant 馬鞍山核能發電廠, Taiwan’s third. The others are located along the northern shore of the island, dangerously close to the dense population centers of Taipei 台北 and Keelung 基隆. Here, at least, the nuclear power plant is away from the burgeoning metropolises of the western plains, but I have my doubts about how well things would be handled in the event of a catastrophe. Ma’anshan has already weathered a series of strong earthquakes in 2006 without mishap so that’s heartening at least. I’m not an anti-nuclear ideologue but I remain skeptical about the safety of nuclear power in disaster-prone Taiwan. And, in the abstract, I find it kind of hilarious that the nation’s most notorious beach resort town is next to a nuclear power plant, all of which is located in a national park.