Sat, Aug 27, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers go on nuclear waste tour at Nevada facility


A group of Taiwanese legislators paid a visit to a permanent nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada Thursday in an effort to collect tips on handling radioactive waste.

Accompanied by officials from the US Department of Energy, the lawmakers, headed by Legislator Chiu Yung-jen (邱永仁) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), spent several hours touring the Yucca Mountain Repository, located about 160km northwest of Las Vegas, and being briefed by the facility's authorities.

According to these authorities, the nuclear waste dump is built in an area not only far from densely populated cities but also an area where geological conditions is stable, making it suitable for storage of hazardous materials.

So far, they said, the Department of Energy has spent US$8 billion developing the underground dump, which is planned to be fully completed in 10 years. After it is finished, the Yucca Mountain Repository will be used to store all nuclear reactors and radioactive waste that is currently stored in 131 smaller facilities scattered across the US. It is estimated that it will remain safe for 10,000 years.

Nuclear power plants provide about 20 percent of the electricity used in the US.

Chiu said the visit by the legislators, all members of the Legislative Yuan's Science and Information Technology Committee, is aimed at emulating the US experience and working out a policy that will solve Taiwan's nuclear waste problems once and for all.

State-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) has in recent years prepared to remove over 97,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste from Lanyu (蘭嶼), which lies off the southeastern Taiwan coast, as the lease on its storage site has expired.

The waste, produced by Taipower's three nuclear power plants over 20 years, is scheduled to be inspected and repacked by the end of 2010.

Taipower has contacted authorities from home and abroad for the treatment and disposal of its nuclear waste over the past several years, including Russia, North Korea and Taiwan's outlying islet of Wuchiu.

After the visit to Yucca Mountain, Chiu and his group proceeded to the Hoover Dam, also in Nevada, to see whether Taiwan can borrow any ideas from the dam that can help Taiwan streamline water conservation and related efforts.

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