Sat, Sep 13, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Still no deal on home for radioactive waste

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taitung County Government has no plans to sign a contract with state-run Taipower Power Company (Taipower) to build the nation's first permanent radioactive repository in its area of jurisdiction, County Commissioner Hsu Ching-yuan (徐慶元) said yesterday.

Chinese-language media reported yesterday that the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which supervises Taipower, would sign a contract with the Taitung County Government by the end of this year in order to fulfill a promise made by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

In April, Chen promised to find a solution to problems relating to the removal of an interim repository on Orchid Island, which is officially part of Taitung County.

Currently, nearly 100,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste from nuclear plants, hospitals and research institutes are stored there -- despite long-running protests from the island's Aboriginal residents.

According to the report, Taitung County authorities said an agreement would be reached -- if Taipower adopted advanced storage methods, reduced the amount of waste being stored and offered adequate compensation.

Yesterday, Hsu denied the report and said that that he'd never heard of any agreement between the county government and Taipower.

"On this issue, I give up playing the role of coordinator between the area residents and the central government," Hsu said.

Taitung Council speaker Wu Chun-li (吳俊立) said yesterday that 30 councilors were united in their opposition the establishment of a permanent repository for low-level radioactive waste in the county.

"But we don't rule out the possibility of turning the interim one on Orchid Island into a permanent one. It needs to be further discussed," Wu said.

Taipower officials said yesterday that it was too early to say the repository would be built in Taitung County due to the lack of any legal basis for doing so. A draft bill outlining regulations for choosing the site of a final repository for low-level radioactive waste is still waiting for legislative approval.

"Without the approval of these regulations, we can't make a final decision to designate a site as a permanent home for low-level radioactive waste," said Huang Huei-yu (黃惠予), the head of Taipower's public affairs department.

According to Taipower, after the legislation is passed, the repository would not be completed for at least five years. Taipower says it would take that long to select an appropriate site, conduct environmental impact assessments, design the repository and then finally build it.

Taipower's preliminary scheme is to have repositories built in four remote mountainous townships in Taitung County, including Tawu, Tajen, Taimali and Chinfeng.

A previous project to build the repository on the offshore islet of Wuchiu, in Kinmen County, was reportedly abandoned after spending NT$700 million on a feasibility assessment.

Concerns about the islet's proximity to China's Fujian Province finally put the brakes on the project.

Huang said none of the proposed projects to ship low-level radioactive waste abroad had been officially terminated. Possible foreign destinations for the waste included North Korea, Russia, China and the Marshall Islands.

"If any of them can meet our demands, we will apply for an export permit from the Atomic Energy Council," Huang said.

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