Over 2,000 rally against nuclear plants in Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Around 2,000 anti-nuclear protesters demonstrated in Taiwan on Sunday, demanding an immediate halt to the construction of a nuclear power plant.

The protest comes amid a deepening nuclear crisis in Japan after a huge quake on March 11 unleashed a tsunami which crippled an atomic plant 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

"In the face of Japan's nuclear crisis... Taiwan should stick to the goal of building itself in a non-nuclear homeland, so that our offspring will be free from any fears of nuclear disasters," Lee Chuo-han, the secretary-general to the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, told AFP.

The flag-waving and chanting protesters demanded that work on the island's fourth nuclear power plant, which is nearly complete, be halted immediately.

They are also opposed to plans by the state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) to extend the lifespan of its three existing nuclear plants after their licences expire.

Taiwan's government is reviewing a Taipower application to extend the operating licence of its first nuclear plant, which is due to expire in 2017, almost four decades after it opened.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who has said he wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2025, and then halve that figure by 2050, said last week Taiwan's nuclear power policy will proceed unabated although he ordered a safety review for the plants.

Electricity generated by the three nuclear power plants accounts for 20 per cent of the island's power supply.