Sun, May 05, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Government to set up commission to deal with island's radioactive waste

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (林義夫) yesterday apologized to the residents of Orchid Island for the government's failure to remove nuclear waste from their island and pledged to form a Cabinet-level commission within a month to tackle the relocation project.

"We're sorry to have disrespected the human rights, living rights and environmental rights of the Tao tribe and the people of Orchid Island," Lin told a press conference held at the Cabinet's Government Information Office last night after returning from his trip to Orchid Island.

He said another committee would be created within a month to oversee the restoration of the site where the radioactive waste is being stored to its original condition.

Lin made a one-day trip to the island to discuss the matter with about 30 representatives of the islanders, while about 1,000 others staged a protest outside the storage site.

Lin said the Cabinet will establish a commission to take charge of the relocation project of the roughly 98,000 barrels of low-level nuclear waste.

"One-third of the commission will be composed of Orchid Island residents, while the remaining will be Aboriginal legislators, government officials, environmentalists, academics and experts," he said.

Lin, however, failed to specify a timetable about when the radioactive waste would be removed.

"We won't know when or to where the nuclear waste will be relocated until we sit down and talk about it," Lin said.

"The government understands how you feel," he said, standing on top of mock yellow barrels of nuclear waste that had skulls and crossbones spray-painted on them.

Some Tao Aborigines stood by wearing traditional loin cloths and wooden hats. Many clapped when Lin apologized, while others remained silent.

Lin Wen-yuan (林文淵), chairman of the Taiwan Power Company (Taipower, 台電), however, said that his company has been considering potential relocation sites both in Taiwan and overseas.

"The Environmental Protection Administration is conducting an environmental impact assessment on Hsiaochu (小坵), a small islet off the Matsu islands," Lin said.

"We've also contacted China, North Korea, the Solomon Islands and Russia."

Lin said that the situation had been complicated by Taipower signing a memorandum of understanding with a private company in China to take care of the radioactive waste stored on Orchid Island.

"While we're authorized by the government to sign the memorandum, we have no idea whether they were too," Lin said. "China seems a sound relocation place because the company we contacted has the dumping site, technology and equipment available."

No matter where the radioactive waste will eventually end up, Lin said, the government's stance is clear.

"The bottom-line is that we won't move the nuclear waste anywhere else in Taiwan until we receive the consent of the people of the potential dumping site," Lin said.

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