Wed, May 28, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Nuclear disposal site still unknown

RADIOACTIVE As some of the 97,672 barrels of nuclear waste on Lanyu are rusting away, the atomic agency is looking for alternative locations to dispose of its waste


Atomic Energy Council (AEC) Chairman Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) said on Monday that Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) had delayed naming its final potential disposal sites for low-level radioactive waste by five months beyond a legally mandated deadline.

As the body in charge of a statute governing the final disposal site of the waste, Tsai said the AEC has sent letters to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Taipower asking for an explanation.

The AEC is in the process of gathering information and dealing with questions concerning related laws, Tsai said, adding that Taipower had sent a report at the end of February on its progress in choosing the final disposal sites.

“The choice of the final disposal sites has to be made, not only because the statute has cleared the Legislative Yuan, but because of the safety of radioactive waste and the government’s pledge to the residents of Lanyu [also known as Orchid Island],” he said.

The disposal site on Lanyu mainly accepts low-level solidified radioactive waste from the medical, agricultural, industrial and academic sectors as well as from nuclear power plants.

The site began to operate in May 1982 and stopped accepting additional nuclear waste in April 1996. A total of 97,672 barrels are stored in 23 trenches on the island.

Faced with the island’s high temperatures, humidity and salty air, some barrels storing the waste showed signs of corrosion early this year, prompting the AEC to request that Taipower re-examine them as soon as possible.

Reports said that Taipower has chosen four possible sites — Mudan Township in Pingtung County, Daren and Dawu townships in Taitung County and Wanan Township on Penghu — for the final storage site.

The first three townships agreed to allow Taipower to conduct geological surveys, but as the law stipulates that the establishment of the site would require the consent of county residents through a local referendum and not just the consent of township residents, Taipower “dared not” conduct the surveys, the reports said.

Although Taipower favors Penghu’s Wanan Township, the county commissioner, councilors and village chief have all voiced strong opposition to the plan.

The new location will receive the waste currently stored on Lanyu and at Taipower’s three nuclear power plants.

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