Energy authorities on Wednesday offered details about the incineration of low-level nuclear waste amid accusations that they mishandled radioactive material.
The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) and state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) said that burning low-level waste is a regular practice and is handled according to environmental regulations and relevant laws.
AEC Vice Chairman Chou Yuan-ching (周源卿) promised that the council would this year complete a re-examination of 54 sites that anti-nuclear power activists said were found to have higher-than-normal levels of radioactivity.
The comments came in response to a protest on Wednesday at Taipower’s office in Greater Taichung led by the Central Taiwan Antinuclear Action Alliance and Japan-based Taiwanese writer Liu Li-er (劉黎兒).
The alliance has plans for another march tomorrow.
Alliance convener Tsai Chih-hao (蔡智豪) said that concerned citizens have detected radiation three times greater than permissible levels at 54 locations across the nation since they began conducting a census in March last year.
Tsai said that Taipower, the operator of the nation’s nuclear power plants, incinerates thousands of barrels of low-level nuclear waste each year to lessen the number of waste storage sites, which he linked to a nationwide radiation level that is two to four times the natural background level.
Among the dozens of sites across Taiwan proper and on Penghu and Kinmen, the alliance detected artificial nuclides of plutonium at National Taichung University of Science and Technology, as well as cesium-134 and cesium-137 at Taichung Civic Square, Tsai said.
Taipower divides the radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants into burnable and unburnable types, with 100,000 barrels of unburnable waste currently stored on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼), he said, adding that about the same number of barrels are stored at the three active nuclear plants.
In response to the protest, Taipower spokesman Chai Fu-feng (蔡富豐) said that low-level nuclear waste is treated in several stages before being incinerated and the process is closely monitored.
If radioactivity were to exceed acceptable levels during the incineration, an automatic shutdown mechanism would kick in, Chai said.
Despite the explanation, there was no indication that the environmentalists would call off tomorrow’s planned event to demand scrapping the nation’s fourth nuclear plant and an end to nuclear power in Taiwan.