Taiwan Pemier Chang Chun-hsiung has side-stepped a constitutional and political crisis by announcing the immediate resumption of work on the controversial Lungmen nuclear power plant. In return the combined opposition parties, which had threatened the prospect of permanent paralysis in the legislature, have commited themselves to co-operating with the government in its long term, now even longer term, aim to make Taiwan a nuclear free zone; and have tacitly agreed not to try and force Chang’s resignation.

Chang found himself in the painful position of having to publicly rescind his decision to halt construction of the plant, a policy decision based on the Democratic Progressive Party’s pre–election promise to phase out nuclear power. Announcing the u-turn, he argued that Taiwan could not afford the social and economic costs that would arise from further prolonging the impasse.

Parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng had apparently rejected an earlier compromise drafted by the government and demanded that construction of the plant should restart before any agreement was discussed. Recently the opposition-dominated legislature voted against a cabinet decision to shelve the partially completed plant, and called for the government to finish building the $5.3 billion project, but Chang responded by saying that the resolution would not be legally binding, comments that could have prolonged the political crisis as opposition deputies threatened to recess indefinitely. The parliamentary resolution followed Chang’s decision to halt construction of the project in a way that a constitutional court has ruled contained procedural flaws.

The decision has been met with anger among the anti-nuclear movement and from residents of Kungliao, where the plant is being built. And several prominent DPP members have demanded that the plant’s final fate should be decided by referendum.