On the evening of Monday, March 25, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), who stands with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in supporting nuclear power, met with Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Keelung Mayor Chang Tong-rong (張通榮) to discuss the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City, and related issues.
According to media reports, Jiang said at the meeting that “it is true that the government does not have a complete plan on how to handle nuclear waste.”
One reason nuclear power plants are so frightening is precisely that “it is true that the government does not have a complete plan on how to handle nuclear waste.”
Although he tried to moderate his statement, Jiang’s inadvertent admission that the government has no plans for the safe handling of nuclear waste will undoubtedly have an impact on the eventual fate of nuclear power plants in Taiwan.
If Jiang had any academic conscience and political morals, what he should have said was: “It is true that, so far, our government does not have a complete plan on how to handle nuclear waste. Not only that, the US, Japanese, Russian or French governments, despite their advanced use of nuclear energy, also don’t have a complete plan on how to deal with nuclear waste.”
There are three levels to this statement. On the first level, by virtue of having nuclear power plants, there will be nuclear waste. This waste is not the kind of poison that will be around for a mere 100 years: It is something we will have to live with for centuries.
Without a complete plan for the handling of nuclear waste, why is there so much talk about “nuclear safety? Does it not mean Ma’s statement that “without nuclear safety, there will be no Fourth Nuclear Power Plant” is just hot air?
On the second level, be it at nuclear waste storage sites on Lanyu (蘭嶼), also known as Orchid Island, or at any of the nation’s other three nuclear power plants, the existing temporary storage sites for nuclear waste are becoming overfull.
Since Ma and his clique have no way of handling the nuclear waste at these sites, how can they go on talking about building a fourth plant and producing more nuclear waste?
Finally, on the third level, at a time when there is no complete plan for dealing with nuclear waste, one wonders what astronomical sums will have to be spent before a solution is found, if ever.
Since it cannot be estimated how deep the money pit of nuclear waste treatment will be, how can Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) go on claiming that “nuclear power is the cheapest” of all energy sources? Does Taipower not include the cost of a final solution for the treatment of nuclear waste in the cost of nuclear energy production?
In short, Jiang’s statement that “it is true that the government does not have a complete plan on how to handle nuclear waste materials” is sufficient to poke a big hole in the balloon of lies about how cheap nuclear energy is.
Chang Kuo-tsai is a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.
Translated by Perry Svensson