Thu, Nov 28, 2002 - Page 4 News List

Nuclear-free Taiwan must wait

LONG HALF-LIFE The head of the AEC says the country won't wean itself from atomic energy for about 60 years, when the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is decommissioned


Taiwan won't become nuclear-free until 2061, the head of the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) announced yesterday.

AEC Chairman Ouyang Min-shen (歐陽敏盛) told the legislature's Science and Technology Committee that the date he gave was based on the earliest time that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant -- which is now under construction -- could be decommissioned.

Ouyang made the comments in response to a question from DPP lawmaker Mark Chen (陳唐山).

"Since turning Taiwan into a nuclear-free country is a national policy, I wonder when it will be nuclear-free?" Chen asked.

In response, Ouyang said that if the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant begins operating in July 2006 as planned, it would have a roughly 40-year lifespan, followed by a period of decommissioning.

"I roughly estimate that Taiwan won't become nuclear-free until 2061," Ouyang said.

To fulfill the Cabinet's promise of making Taiwan nuclear-free, Ouyang said, it was reviewing policies on bringing forward the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and the promotion of energy conservation.

Addressing concerns that Taiwan has no experience in decommissioning power plants, Ouyang said his agency had learned from the experience of advanced countries, such as the US, which have already decommissioned several nuclear plants.

"After nuclear plants are decommissioned, the sites can be turned into parks or residential areas," Ouyang said.

Other lawmakers, however, criticized the AEC for its supervision of the Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電), which has so far failed to find a suitable site for building a final repository for its low-level radioactive waste.

According to lawmakers, Taipower has spent NT$700 million evaluating a site in Wuchiu (烏坵), Kinmen County, during the past five years. Because of the delay, the government still has no place to relocate 98,000 barrels stored temporarily on Orchid Island, Taitung County.

Ouyang said that laws being drawn up would soon provide a legal basis for the government to select a proper site for the final repository.

The AEC chief was speaking a day before thousands of residents from townships near the two nuclear power plants plan to demonstrate in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which also supervises state-run Taipower.

This would be the latest protest held by the residents over the past few months either in Taipei or at nuclear power plants to express their anger at the way Taipower handles radioactive waste.

Residents suspect that two warehouses under construction at the two plants, which can jointly store up 80,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste, are actually permanent repositories rather than temporary sites.

In addition, residents criticized the government's inability to deal with high-level radioactive waste. The residents said that the two nuclear power plants, which have been in operation for more than 20 years, are now home to 1,657 tonnes of spent fuel rods.

Tomorrow, demonstrators plan to ask for reasonable compensation, the construction of roads for emergency evacuation and a halt to the construction of the warehouses.

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