Thu, Jan 05, 2006 - Page 2 News List

AEC says waste relocation can be sped up

CNA , TAIPEI

Elders from the Tao (or Yami) tribe on Lanyu, an island off the coast of Taitung County, gather to discuss community affairs yesterday. The island is used by the central government to store Taiwan's nuclear waste.

PHOTO: CHANG TSUN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

The relocation of low-level radioactive waste on the island of Lanyu (蘭嶼) could be accelerated from the previously-scheduled 18 years to nine years, the head of the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) said yesterday.

Fielding questions at the Legislative Yuan, AEC Chairman Ou Yang Min-sheng (歐陽敏盛) said that as long as a consensus on the issue is reached between Lanyu's residents and the government, the nuclear waste removal process could be shortened.

If everything goes smoothly, the Lanyu nuclear waste receptacle can be decommissioned by 2014, Ou Yang said.

Ou Yang said he has full confidence in the ability of state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) to handle the 97,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste on Lanyu, also known as Orchid Island. He added that there would be no safety problems when the waste is handled.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that Lanyu locals are still skeptical about the safety of the nuclear waste which has been stored in the receptacle for two decades and there has been no consensus on matters related to the relocation of the waste, Ou Yang added.

According to Su Hsien-chang (蘇獻章), an AEC vice chairman, an Executive Yuan ad hoc committee had previously planned that the government would spend five years in choosing a site for a new receptacle for the nuclear waste, followed by another five years to build the receptacle, and a further four years for the 97,000 barrels to be inspected, repacked and removed, and then four more years for the emptied receptacle to be rehabilitated.

Taipower's lease on its storage site in Lanyu expired several years ago and the company began to build new inspection and handling facilities on the small island nearly three years ago.

Taipower has contracted experts from home and abroad to handle the treatment and disposal of its nuclear waste on Lanyu over the past several years, including Russia, North Korea and Taiwan's offshore islet of Wuchiu.

Meanwhile, according to a nuclear waste assessment report from the Atomic Energy Council (AEC), exposure rates in Lanyu have not exceeded 0.001 millisieverts (mSv) in any one hour in a year, far lower than the AEC-allowed level of 0.25 mSv in any hour in a year.

Although a proposal to renew the expired lease with Taipower on the land of the existing waste storage site has not been approved by the Lanyu Rural Township office, some local residents have been having second thoughts about kicking Taipower out.

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