Thu, May 30, 2002 - Page 2 News List

AEC rejects Taipower waste plan

IMPRACTICAL The Atomic Energy Council made clear its once muddled disapproval of Taipower's initiative to build a repository for radioactive waste on a remote islet

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Officials of the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) said yesterday that the agency would not back a Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) initiative to build the nation's first final repository for low-level radioactive waste on a remote islet in Wuchiu (烏坵) township, Kinmen County. The officials said difficulties pertaining to logistics and supervision made the site impractical.

When examining a draft of the Radioactive Substances Act proposed by the AEC yesterday, lawmakers questioned the council's supervision of Taipower and its management of radioactive waste.

Answering KMT lawmaker Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷), AEC Chairman Ouyang Min-shen (歐陽敏盛) said yesterday that conditions on remote Hsiaochiu Islet were not ideal due to its inappropriatelocation.

"For example, the distances involved would make it difficult for us to supply and supervise the repository," Ouyang said.

Ouyang said that the council wished to base such facilities on Taiwan proper rather than on a remote islet and wishes to complete the task within 10 years.

AEC officials have hinted since early last month to the effect that Taipower should give up the idea of building a repository in Wuchiu. It was then that residents of Orchid Island carried out a series of dramatic protests in opposition to an interim radioactive repository.

The demonstrations prompted the Cabinet to look into relocating the 97,672 barrels of low-level radioactive waste.

Taipower then floated the idea of locating the new repository on a remote islet in Wuchiu as a possible solution.

AEC officials stressed several times this month, however, that the islet's proximity to China might cause unforseeable problems, such as possible claims for compensation by fishermen working in waters nearby.

On May 15, AEC Vice Chairman Chen Kuo-cheng (陳國誠) told legislators that inappropriate geological conditions should also have been taken into account.

On May 20, AEC Vice Chairman Chiou Syh-tsong (邱賜聰) said that no country in the world builds repositories for low-level radioactive waste near its borders.

AEC officials, however, said that the council had no reason to notify Taipower of the idea, because Taipower had not submitted a proposal to build a final repository to the council.

The plan is currently being processed both by the Environmental Protection Administration for the environmental impact assessment and by the Ministry of Economic Affairs for a feasibility assessment.

In addition, legislators yesterday urged the AEC to more carefully supervise spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and to take more of a long term view about what to do with it. Currently, highly-radioactive spent fuel is stored at the three nuclear power-plant sites.

"The AEC should ask the US, the producer of the fuel, to retrieve spent fuel for further treatment," said DPP Legislator Lai Chin-lin (賴勁麟).

Responding to Lai, Ouyand said that Taiwan had expressed the idea to the US. The international community, however, was promoting regional cooperation to handle spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

Several countries having small nuclear programs face the same problems of storing and disposing of spent fuel. From an economic point of view, many countries see little sense in building their own storage facilities.

Ouyang said that the International Atomic Energy Agency had started to collect and evaluate plans for on a regional spent fuel storage facility.

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