Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Residents mixed on plans for nuclear waste dump

By Meggie Lu AND Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Reactions were mixed yesterday after the Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Tuesday evening that Taitung County’s Daren Township (達仁) and Penghu County’s Wang-an Township (望安) were its two preferred locations for storing low-radiation nuclear waste.

The ministry committee tasked with selecting potential sites eliminated Pingtung County’s Mu-tan Township (牡丹) as an option.

Regulations for selecting sites require that the decision be open for public comment for 30 days. If there is opposition from the communities, authorities could try to negotiate. The proposals must be put to local referendums, with more than half of eligible voters participating and more than half of the ballots cast in support of the sites for them to be built.

The county and township governments where the site is located would receive a NT$5 billion (US$146 million) “Friendly Neighbor” payment from Taiwan Power Co as compensation.

Penghu residents voiced strong opposition yesterday, while public opinion in Taitung was divided.

“Everyone here was very upset when we heard,” Wangan Township (望安) Mayor Yeh Chung-ju (葉忠入) told the Taipei Times by telephone.

“A great majority of Wang-an residents — about 90 percent — are strongly opposed to the plan,” Yeh said.

Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Pin-kuan (林炳坤), from Penghu, panned the decision.

“Within a year of taking power, the new government is trying to overturn a decision by the former government,” Lin said, referring to a 2003 visit to Penghu by then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who said Wang-an Township’s Dongji Island (東吉嶼) would not be considered for storing nuclear waste.

“Following a decision by the Tourism Bureau to make Penghu a world-class geological park, the Penghu County Government has just formally declared Dongji Island a natural reserve, which prohibits any human activity without permission,” Lin said. “Any attempt to build a nuclear waste storage site on it would be illegal and violators would be subject to jail time of up to five years and fines of up to NT$1 million.”

Penghu County Commissioner Wang Chien-fa (王乾發) was quoted by the Penghu Times as saying that dumping nuclear waste in the county would harm the tourism industry and the county government would refuse to organize a referendum.

In Taitung County, although most county councilors and Paiwan Aboriginal activists have voiced opposition to locating the dump in Nantian Village (南田), Village Chief Chang Chih-hsin (張志信) said that more than 60 percent of the villagers supported the plan because of the compensation and employment opportunities promised by Taipower.

“We understand that NT$5 billion is quite tempting, but Taipower only told villagers about the positive side,” Paiwan Alliance Against Nuclear Waste spokesman Sakinu Tepiq said.

Nantian Village is a Paiwan Aboriginal community.

“When you think about it — if nuclear waste is risk-free like Taipower claims, why do they need to offer NT$5 billion in compensation?” he asked.

“We will launch a campaign in local communities to tell the truth and remind them that this is the traditional domain of we Paiwan, passed down by our ancestors,” he said. “We are the ones responsible to safeguard our home.”

Meanwhile, Taitung County Councilor Hsieh Ming-chu (謝明珠) said the county council had blocked the county government’s referendum bill several times to prevent the vote on nuclear waste from taking place.

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