Sat, Nov 30, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Nuclear waste activists draw promise

ANGRY DEMANDS A residents' consortium protested in Taipei before heading to a meeting with government and power company officials to state their case in full


The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) promised yesterday to propose that residents of the areas around Taiwan's nuclear power plants be invited to help draw up a timetable to remove nuclear waste.

It also restated a promise made earlier this week to introduce a bill on selection of a final deposit site for low-level radioactive waste within one month.

"Within a month the Cabinet will present the bill to the Legislative Yuan for review and suggest that the Cabinet invite local representatives to form a national committee to map out a timetable for the handling of low-level radioactive waste," said MOEA Vice Minister Steve Chen (陳瑞隆).

MOEA officials made the promise after an hour-long meeting with representatives of the state-owned power company Taipower and protesters from the northern coast of Taiwan.

Some 2,500 protesters from Chinshan, Shihmen, Wanli and Sanchih townships on Taipei County's northern coast had gathered at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei before parading to the MOEA building shouting, "Nuclear waste out."

Tsai Chang-ming (蔡蒼明), president of the residents' association against the nuclear waste, said that residents of the townships have long tolerated the first and second nuclear power plants, in Shihmen and Wanli, respectively.

But, he added, they have asked Taipower to stop storing nuclear waste at the plants and to halt construction of additional waste storage tanks.

He added that the association now had no option but to resort to demonstrating.

The protesters demanded to be allowed to participate in the drawing up of a detailed schedule for the relocation of the waste and that the government should allocate NT$38 million -- the equivalent of 1 percent of the NT$3.8 billion budget for the new storage facilities -- to develop local infrastructure. Taipower officials promised to report to the ministry within one month.

The protesters dispersed around 2pm, but Tsai said that they will continue to negotiate with Taipower and the ministry and warned, "We don't rule out coming back to protest again if our requests are not met."

A Taipower official later told the Taipei Times that the company had not made concessions on the issue today because "each resident already gets NT$30 to NT$200 compensation for each barrel of waste."

Chen said he could not promise to halt the construction of new storage facilities but that Taipower chairman Lin Neng-pai (林能白) has been seeking a permanent storage site for nuclear waste since assuming his post and claimed that he had "already made initial progress." He did not elaborate.

In 1996 Taipower promised to find a site to store nuclear waste by August this year to relocate all waste. "But so far, a final deposit site has not materialized and, instead, Taipower has started to build new storage facilities at these plants," said Tsai.

Taiwan, with three operational nuclear plants and one under construction, has produced 180,000 barrels of nuclear waste, 97,000 of which are stored on Orchid Island off Taiwan's southeastern coast. The remainder are stored at the plants.

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