Displaying pictures of decaying nuclear waste barrels and a girl with a brain tumor, Tao Aborigines from Lanyu (蘭嶼, also known as Orchid Island) yesterday accused the government and Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) of trying to annihilate the tribe by storing nuclear waste on the island for three decades.
“I cry everytime I tell the story of this five-year-old girl because I’m also a mother, and I believe every mother would feel heartbroken when she sees this picture and hears the story,” Sinan Mavivo, an anti-nuclear activist and resident of Lanyu, told a news conference in Taipei, while showing a picture of a five-year-old girl whose head was wrapped in gauze.
“When I first saw her, I thought she was wearing a mask, but no, it was gauze. She has to wear it because she has to undergo several treatments for brain tumor, and since she’s so little, the procedure has to be done through her mouth,” Sinan Mavivo said.
Photo: Mandy Cheng, AFP
She choked back sobs as she talked, while Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) and Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) wiped away tears from their faces when they saw the picture.
Sinan Mavivo said that although there is no research establishing a firm connection between cancer and nuclear waste, official figures show that the cancer rate on the island has risen since the nuclear waste facility was opened in 1982.
She showed another picture in which workers were shown working in a trench where nuclear waste barrels are stored in the Lanyu Nuclear Waste Storage site. Most of the barrels have deteriorated, and dust-like nuclear waste was scattered around the trench.
“This is what it looks like in the trench, and the radioactive dust scatters whenever they open the cover over the trench to inspect the barrels, contaminating the land and sea,” Sinan Mavivo said.
After seeing the pictures, Tien said she recently visited the nuclear waste storage facility at the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Wanli District (萬里), which she said was “fully air-conditioned with temperature and humidity control.”
“Why is the nuclear waste dump in Lanyu so primitive?” Tien asked.
“It’s not fair that we who live on Taiwan proper enjoy the electricity produced by these nuclear power plants, but it’s the people on Lanyu who have to take the waste,” she said.
Tien said she would ask Taipower to make funding available to remove the nuclear waste from the island, and push a special law to compensate Lanyu residents for what they have endured.
Lin supported the idea and accused Taipower of illegally storing nuclear waste on the island, since the lease for the plot of land where the facility is located expired at the end of last year.
Chang Hai-yu (張海嶼), a pastor at a local church, said that since the company had completed an inspection of all nuclear waste barrels last year, “Taipower should remove them from the island, and send them back to where they came from.”
“I hope President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) hears our cry, otherwise, the Tao are heading for destruction,” said Kuo Chien-ping (郭建平), a long-time Tao activist against nuclear waste.
“I’m sure he will hear us, because he always learns about current events from newspapers, and if newspapers publish what we say here, he will read about it tomorrow,” he said.
The Tao, as well as anti-nuclear activists, will stage a rally against nuclear power on Saturday next week in Taipei.
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