North Korea suing Taipower: report

NUCLEAR WASTE::Taipower confirmed signing a contract to send radioactive waste to North Korea for disposal. Pyongyang now wants NT$300 million because it did not

By Helen Ku  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Mar 02, 2013 - Page 1

North Korea has filed a transnational lawsuit against Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電), accusing the state-owned utility of failing to honor a contract to deliver nuclear waste for disposal in the communist state, a local magazine reported.

The Chinese-language TVBS Weekly said in its latest issue yesterday that Taipower and the Pyongyang government signed a contract in 1996 that North Korea would take in the company’s nuclear waste.

However, because of international pressure — especially from the South Korean and US governments — Taipower called for a temporary suspension of the agreement in 1998, but later signed a new US$8.72 million deal with the North Korean government to extend the contract by five years, the report said.

Under the new deal, North Korea would continue investing and constructing nuclear waste disposal sites. However, since Taipower has not followed up on the deal, Pyongyang filed a transnational lawsuit against Taipower and asked for NT$300 million (US$10.1 million) in compensation, the report said.

Taipower issued a statement last night saying it did sign a contract with the North Korean government in 1997, promising to deliver low-level radioactive waste to the country for final management.

However, the two parties ran into difficulties that prevented them from carrying out the terms of the contract, Taipower said.

Taipower said that as of yesterday, it had not received any document stating that Pyongyang was seeking compensation for breach of contract.

The state utility said it was planning to deliver 60,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste to a then-existing and still operating disposal site in North Korea, as promised in the contract signed on Jan. 11, 1997.

After the contract was signed, North Korea issued a permit allowing Taipower to export nuclear waste to the country.

However, North Korea failed to meet Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council’s request that it follow the Taiwanese government’s rule of “finishing construction first prior to a site evaluation.”

Taipower also failed to obtain a permit from the AEC to export nuclear waste overseas.

Taipower added that the North Korean government had once sought mediation in 2004 from the AEC, but the two sides failed to reach a consensus.

The company said it did not wire any payment to the North Korean government because the contract never went into effect and had become invalid.