Shipping spent nuclear fuel from the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City to France for treatment is an alternative solution to dry-cask storage, said Chiou Syh-tsong (邱賜聰), head of the Atomic Energy Council’s Fuel Cycle and Materials Administration.
Nuclear waste and the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) are different issues, because “you can decide whether or not you want the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, but nuclear waste is an existing problem that must be solved,” Chiou told the Chinese-language Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times)
As the spent fuel pool of the Jinshan plant is about to reach capacity, shipping out the spent fuel has become an urgent issue and operator Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) is searching for alternative solutions, such as shipping it overseas for reprocessing, he said.
By reprocessing the spent nuclear fuel in France, 96.5 percent of the uranium and plutonium can be recycled and recovered for nuclear fuel, Chiou said.
The remaining 3.5 percent of fission products and actinicles would be glass-solidified and shipped back to Taiwan for storage, but reduced to about one-third the quantity after treatment, he said, adding that Taiwan would still need a final disposal site.
The nation’s nuclear fuel is being monitored and controlled by the US, so shipping it to France would need approval from the US, but details on the progress of negotiations and the contract between Taipower and the US should be answered by Taipower or the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Chiou said.
Taipower earlier told Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) that according to the Agreement for Cooperation Between the American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, Washington has agreed that Taipei can ship spent nuclear fuel to France or other countries agreed by both sides of the agreement for reprocessing.
However, the agreement also requires Taiwan to inform the US about the contents and shipping destination 30 days before taking action, and that shipping cannot take place before gaining US approval, it said in a written reply to Cheng’s questions.
Taipower said it is currently discussing the feasibility of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel with French companies, and has not yet gained government approval.
Cheng said the safety of the Jinshan plant’s dry-cask storage is doubtful, and questioned whether the reprocessing solution has only been brought up to rationalize extending the lifespan of the three operating nuclear power plants.
She said even if spent fuel is shipped overseas for reprocessing, the nuclear waste problem would not be resolved until a final disposal site is decided. The best way to ensure public safety is to abolish the new plant and retire the three operating ones or even shorten their lifespans, she said.