Wed, Feb 07, 2007 - Page 11 News List

Nuclear waste dump to be chosen by next year

NOT IN MY TOWNSHIP The waste currently stored on Lanyu will be relocated to one of four locations on Taiwan proper, but Taipower won't name the options

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Taiwan, which uses nuclear reactors for more than one-fifth of its electricity, plans to decide before the end of next year on a new site for radioactive waste after failed bids to move the material to Russia, China and North Korea.

Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) is evaluating four remote locations within Taiwan, and residents in these counties will be asked to approve construction of a dump for waste such as used protective clothing, Taipower chief engineer Tu Yueh-yuan (杜悅元) said in an interview on Friday.

The selected site will receive NT$5 billion (US$152 million) in compensation, she said. She would not name the possible locations.

Taipower stores spent fuel rods at the sites of its reactors and less radioactive waste on the island of Lanyu (蘭嶼) off the southeastern coast. Lanyu's Aboriginal residents are demanding the dump be removed, highlighting negative public sentiment toward nuclear power that has prompted major political parties to pledge to eventually end the use of nuclear energy.

"We're trying very hard to look for a permanent dump site locally," Tu said. "An overseas location isn't going to happen any time soon."

Taipower cannot identify the prospective sites before gaining approval from a Ministry of Economic Affairs task force, said Lin Jeng-jer, Taipower's deputy director for nuclear waste management, yesterday.

The utility generates 75 percent of the electricity that Taiwan uses and monopolizes transmission. It operates three nuclear power plants with installed capacity of 5,144 megawatts, 14 percent of the nation's total. Reactors met 24 percent of electricity demand last month, Taipower said on its Web site.

Construction of a fourth nuclear plant continues.

Taipower stores about 100,000 barrels of low radioactive waste, including contaminated gloves, on Lanyu, Tu said.

The company needs an area the size of a soccer field in a location with limited earthquake risk to house the barrels of waste from Lanyu and similar barrels from the nuclear plants, she said.

"We need to find a feasible way to store nuclear waste, and it's better doing it in a democratic way," Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang To-far (王塗發) said.

"The hardest obstacles to overcome in finding a nuclear dump site are public opinion and anti-nuclear sentiment," Tu said.

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) administration in October 2000 ordered Taipower to suspend building the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant because of opposition from local residents.

The government reinstated the project in February 2001 after the Council of Grand Justices ruled that the decision to halt construction was flawed because lawmakers were not consulted.

In the same month the Cabinet and lawmakers agreed to eventually phase out nuclear energy, the energy bureau said on its Web site, without elaborating on a timetable.

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