Thu, Jan 24, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Radioactive metal illegally sold for scrap: lawmaker

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

New Power Party Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang, right, talks to officials and reporters at the gate of an abandoned metal processing plant in New Taipei City’s Jinshan District yesterday.

Photo: Lin Hsin-han, Taipei Times

New Power Party Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) yesterday said that radioactive metal from an abandoned titanium dioxide plant in New Taipei City was illegally sold to scrapyards in central and southern Taiwan, but the Atomic Energy Council has insisted that it was not radioactive.

Police have found that since Dec. 19, at least four batches of scrap metal were illegally transported from the plant, but so far they have only tracked down one shipment, Huang said on Facebook.

The batch that police located was transported to Taichung’s Liougu (六股) before being sold to scrapyards in New Taipei City’s Taishan District (泰山) and Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音), he said.

The plant, which ceased operations in 1999 and has remained inactive, produced titanium dioxide using radioactive ilmenite.

Huang said that when inspecting the plant earlier yesterday, he learned from Liu Wen-chung (劉文忠), head of the council’s Fuel Cycle and Materials Administration, that Changhua County-based E-Top Metal Co in July 2017 reported finding radioactive scrap metal, but that the council did not test the metal for radiation until Monday.

“For one-and-a-half years, the company did not send the metal to the council’s Institute of Nuclear Energy Research and the council did nothing to track down where it came from,” Huang said.

He said that the council was “irresponsible,” and urged the Executive Yuan to launch an investigation into the matter and discipline the officials involved.

“The council has been unbelievably corrupt. What it did was completely unacceptable,” Huang said.

The missing radioactive scrap metal must be tracked down to protect public health and safety, he added.

On Monday last week, New Taipei City police notified the council that some of the scrap metal at the abandoned plant had been stolen, the council said in a statement.

After inspecting the plant, the council said that it found that some scrap metal had indeed been taken, but that it was not radioactive.

The council said that it reviewed the scrapyards’ recycling records and found that three batches of scrap metal totaling 7.1 tonnes had been sold by the plant from Dec. 21 to Jan. 9, but tests found no radioactivity.

Tests also determined that scrap metal sold by the plant that was previously suspected of being radioactive had actually come from somewhere else, it added.

The council said that it has asked E-Top Metal to follow procedures for handling radioactive metal, but added that it does not have the authority to intervene if the company does not comply by a certain date.

Tests showed that the metal was also not from the abandoned plant, it said, urging the owner of the plant to manage any remaining radioactive metals and waste.

Local police should increase patrols of the abandoned facility and install security cameras on the site, the council said.

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