The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) on Thursday said that Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) is considering the construction of a radioactive waste storage facility on an uninhabited outlying island to relocate low-level nuclear waste currently stored on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) off the coast of Taitung County.
During a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Education and Culture Committee, AEC Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻) said that the council had ordered Taipower to propose alternative plans to relocate nuclear waste on the Orchid Island by next year.
Low-level nuclear waste — protective clothing or mechanical parts that have been exposed to radiation — is being stored in a facility on the island, but Taipower’s lease on the facility expired in 2011, and the company has yet to locate a permanent location to store the materials.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs in 2012 designated Taitung County’s Tajen Township (達仁) and Kinmen’s Wuchiu Township (烏坵) as candidates for a storage site.
However, Taipower has failed to gain the cooperation of the local governments to hold a referendum to allow the construction of a final radioactive waste storage facility, which is a legal requirement for the construction of such facilities, Tsai said.
The AEC had demanded that Taipower step up relocation efforts, Tsai said, quoting the company as saying that it would complete construction and relocation by 2021 if a referendum could be held next year to approve the project.
However, if the company fails to secure approval for the site at either township, a temporary facility can be built on an uninhabited outlying island off Taiwan’s western coast to deposit 100,000 nuclear waste tanks stored on Orchid Island and Taiwan proper, he said.
The temporary nature of such a storage site means that it would not require a referendum, he said, adding that should a sparsely populated island be selected for the facility, Taipower would provide financial assistance to relocate residents.
Storing the low-level nuclear waste at facilities overseas remains an option for Taipower, which had contacted Chinese and North Korean authorities over possible storage solutions, while the company has also been assessing the possibility of returning such waste to its power plants.
If the company fails to complete site selection by next year, it would face a maximum annual fine of NT$50 million (US$1.54 million) each year afterward, Tsai said.
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