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Sat, Jul 15, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Taipower targeted for nuclear waste policy

ATOMIC POWER Taipower says it has found a suitable site on an islet near Kinmen to dump low-level nuclear waste, but legislators and activists are not convinced


The Taiwan Power Company (Taipower, 台電) was attacked by legislators and anti-nuclear activists yesterday for what they claimed was its "questionable" nuclear waste management policy.

At a hearing held at the Legislative Yuan by anti-nuclear DPP legislators Lai Chin-lin (賴勁麟) and Lao Hsueh-kuang (廖學廣), Taipower officials said that an environmental impact assessment would be conducted by the end of this year for a low-level nuclear dumping site at Wuchiu (烏坵), an islet near Kinmen.

"In terms of what is feasible from an engineering standpoint, low-level radioactive waste can be safely deposited in this kind of disposal site," said Tsai Mao-tsun (蔡茂村), Taipower's vice president, adding that there were about 20 similar sites for storing nuclear waste in the US.

Lynn Miles, former director of the US-based Taiwanese American Citizens League, said, however, that no facility with ideal conditions for storing nuclear waste existed anywhere in the world.

"When people here talk about how well other advanced countries manage such waste, I have to point out that even the US is facing difficulties in dealing with nuclear waste," Miles said, who has served as head of international affairs for the DPP.

Local activists said that choosing Wuchiu as the dump site was questionable because geological surveys had not been completed.

"How do you know that Wuchiu is a suitable site without assessing geological conditions?" asked Lin Yang-tai (林陽泰), chairman of the New Environmental Foundation (新環境基金會).

According to the Industrial Technology Research Institute, a comprehensive geological survey at Wuchiu will not be completed until the end of this year.

As for high-level radioactive waste, Taipower officials said the establishment of final disposal sites would be completed by 2032.

Tsai said high-level radioactive waste would be buried deep underground, as far as 1,000m beneath the surface.

According to Taipower, all high-level radioactive waste is currently stored in water reservoirs on a temporary basis at nuclear power plants, while 90,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste have been taken to Orchid Island (蘭嶼), an island off the coast of Taitung.

Officials from the Council for Aboriginal Affairs said at the public hearing that the waste had to be removed in the interests of justice.

"Local Aboriginals were not informed from the beginning that the site was designated for dumping nuclear waste." Chang Chen-che (張振哲) said.

Taipower officials said yesterday the company was still in contact with several foreign countries, including Russia, North Korea and China -- believing these countries had the technology to handle such waste.

Anti-nuclear activists urged the government to abandon nuclear energy, saying that some of the nuclear waste had a long half-life.

Taipower currently takes NT$0.17 per unit of electricity from consumers in order to meet the total cost of decommissioning three existing nuclear power plants and managing nuclear waste, which is estimated to be NT$165 billion.

The accuracy of estimation was questioned, however, by DPP headquarters officials.

"We wonder how Taipower estimated this since it doesn't know whether the waste will be managed by Taiwan or some other country," said Lee Chou-han (李卓翰), a researcher from the DPP's national policy committee.

Lee said that he had received no answer from Taipower since March when he first requested an explanation for the estimation.

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