Cabinet to fulfill Orchid Island promise

ENVIRONMENT: Two committees that will deal with the relocation of nuclear waste on Orchid Island have been set up, in step with a promise made to Tao Aborigines


Thu, May 30, 2002 - Page 1

The Cabinet formed two special committees yesterday to handle the relocation of nuclear waste stored on Orchid Island in a move meant to honor a promise made to members of the Tao tribe who reside on the island.

The two new groups -- the Orchid Island Nuclear Waste Relocation Promotion Committee and the Orchid Island Community Development Committee -- held the first of what will be regular meetings shortly after their inauguration yesterday.

The relocation committee will focus on the selection of a new site for the waste as well as timing, budgetary and safety considerations for its relocation.

The community development committee will tackle the issue of compensation for the Tao tribal people -- who have endured the storage of nuclear waste on the island for two decades. Improving the island's standard of living, educational, cultural and health facilities will be among the committee's priorities.

The team will also oversee the redevelopment of the site once the nuclear waste is removed.

On May 4 the Cabinet promised to form two special bodies within the month to address the thorny relocation problem, after Tao tribesmen staged a sit-in at the site to pressure state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) to move the waste out of their homeland.

The 27-member relocation promotion committee will be headed by Minister Without Portfolio Yeh Chun-jung (葉俊榮), while another minister-without portfolio, Chen Chi-nan (陳其南), will lead the 21-member Orchid Island Community Development Committee.

The relocation committee is composed of representatives of the Orchid Island Anti-Nuclear Waste Self-Help Association, environmentalists, academics, Taipower executives, indigenous legislators and officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Atomic Energy Council and the Council of Aboriginal Affairs.

In addition to meeting once every quarter, the committee will also hold provisional meetings to address relevant affairs.

Taipower began to store low-radiation nuclear waste from its three nuclear power plants on Orchid Island in 1982. To date, 97,0000 barrels of radioactive waste have been stored there.

Taipower officials yesterday sought to clarify rumors that the waste would be moved to the first and second nuclear power plants in Taipei County.

"The nuclear waste on Orchid Island will never be shipped here," Taipower said in a press release.

For years, the Tao people have been demanding that Taipower relocate the nuclear waste. As its storage contract with the Orchid Island Land Reclamation Committee will expire at the end of this year, Taipower has been looking for an alternative site, either at home or abroad, in recent years.

In the face of the looming deadline, Taipower is now seeking to extend its contract with the Orchid Island committee for another nine years.