Wed, Aug 18, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Island residents scared by mock nuclear waste

TRAINING TOOLS?A number of suspicious looking barrels found by the people of Orchid Island are just used to train workers, Taipower said

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Shyman Faien, an aboriginal anti-nuclear activist, along with other representatives, yesterday protests in front of the Control Yuan in Taipei, demanding that the government look into the misconduct of both the Cabinet's Atomic Energy Council and the state-owned Taiwan Power Company regarding the illegal dumping of radioactive waste on Orchid Island.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Representatives of Orchid Island, Taitung County and environmentalists yesterday asked the Control Yuan to investigate an illegal dumping case involving hundreds of mock barrels of radioactive waste used previously at an interim repository for low-level radioactive waste.

Showing pictures of numerous 55-gallon barrels laying haphazardly on a slope 10km from the repository and only 100m from the coastline, Shyman Faien (夏曼夫阿原), a well-known advocate for Aboriginal rights on Orchid Island, yesterday reported the case to Chen Jinn-lih (陳進利), a Control Yuan member, in Taipei.

According to Shyman Faien, a resident found some uncovered barrels with solid cement inside when shepherding on the slope on August 10. Residents further explored the site and became terrified after discovering more barrels underground. Some of the barrels were painted with the radiation warning sign.

Officials from the state-owned Taiwan Power Company (Taipower), which manages the repository, explained to residents that about 130 non-hazardous mock barrels, used for workers to practice with, had been placed there temporarily.

Meanwhile, officials of the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) said they did not discover any abnormal radiation levels at the slope after conducting tests.

Shyman Faien said the two official agencies were not trustworthy, because 217 unidentified barrels had been removed by residents as of Monday.

"How can we Orchid Island residents possibly believe what they said? We strongly urge the Control Yuan to investigate if the two official agencies have neglected their duties," Shyman Faien said.

Shyman Faien said that waste barrels had been dumped at the site for two years, and none of residents had been informed.

"The leaves of yams planted nearby have served as food for a long time. We don't even know if the yam fields were contaminated by radiation," Shyman Faien said.

Chen said that the appearance of barrels at inappropriate places implied that Taipower might have neglected their duties and the AEC might have failed to supervise Taipower on radiation safety issues.

"We will have a taskforce established within a week and some field investigations will be necessary," Chen said.

Taipower on Aug. 10 issued a press release stressing that the slope belonged to a cement plant, whose owner agreed to let Taipower's subcontractors store used barrels there temporarily. To distinguish mock barrels of radioactive waste from real barrels of radioactive waste, Taipower had them painted grey or blue, rather than yellow. Barrels containing low-level radioactive waste are yellow and labeled with a radiation warning sign.

Lee Ching-hor (李境和), a division chief at the Fuel Cycle and Materials Administration under the AEC, told the Taipei Times yesterday that they conducted radiation examinations again on Sunday on the slope and found no unusual radiation level.

"Those barrels in grey and blue were used last year by Taipower's subcontractors to practice repacking and other functions at a newly built treatment center," Lee said.

Lee said the new center, currently under trial, will be reviewed by the AEC to ensure its proper functioning.

There are about 98,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste stored at the repository on Orchid Island. Lee said removing rust stains on barrels and repacking waste are important tasks for Taipower in managing the facility.

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