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Nuclear waste threatens our survival: Lanyu natives

2012/03/01 17:45:38

Taipei, March 1 (CNA) Aboriginal activists from the offshore island of Lanyu on Thursday demanded that the government immediately remove all nuclear waste stored on the island, calling it a matter of life and death for the people there.

"The radioactive leak shows that the Tao people are facing extermination," Syaman Vongayan, an official from the Tao Foundation, said at a press conference in Taipei.

He was referring to the results of a report last November that showed radioactive cobalt 60 and caesium 137 had been detected outside the nuclear waste site being operated by Taiwan Power Company (Taipower).

"We are here today to tell the Taiwanese government that we have no place to survive," Syapem Mapanop, a pastor on the island, said in the aboriginal Tao language.

"Thirty years ago, we protested in all kinds of ways. Now we are still doing the same thing," he added.

"Our generation grew up under the shadow of the nuclear waste. Our wish is for the waste to be immediately removed and a clean homeland returned to us," said Aza En, who was born in 1982, when the first barrels of nuclear waste were shipped to Lanyu.

Since then, Taipower has stored over 90,000 barrels of nuclear waste on the island that spreads over 45 square kilometers.

"There is no advanced equipment in the storage trench like there is at other nuclear plants," said Sinan Mavivo, a member of the Global Greens and Asia-Pacific Greens Network, who showed pictures of a trench holding pulverized barrels that she said were stored on the island.

"Is the difference because this is a remote place? Or because there are only 3,000 people living on this island?" she asked.

"What the Lanyu people have been screaming for years is 'save our lives,'" she said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin said Taipower's lease on the land expired on Dec. 31, 2011, but the company continued to store the nuclear waste illegally on the island.

The November report commissioned by Taipower and carried out by researcher Huh Chih-an from the Academia Sinica showed shocking results, she said.

According to the report, the amount of nuclear radiation detected in the sediment samples around the nuclear storage facility on Lanyu in the past two years is 450 becquerels per kilogram (bq/kg).

That is higher than the 150 bq/kg detected in sediment samples taken from around the third nuclear power plant in Taiwan over the same period, Tien cited the report as saying.

Furthermore, report results showed that the level of radioactive cobalt 60 has "been on a rise" since the fourth quarter of 2009, said Tien.

In response to the report, Taipower had said that the detected amounts were far lower than the minimum safety levels.

Taipower said the radioactive leak could have occurred during the process of replacing aging storage barrels under a four-year project that was completed Nov. 26.

Chang Wu-shou, a public health professor from Taipei Medical University, said a study he conducted more than 10 years ago on Lanyu found caesium 137 in several places on the island.

"Enough. It is time to stop," she said. "It is time to help them move the nuclear waste out of the island."

Tien called on cross-partisan support for the people living on Lanyu and said the Legislature should push for a special law to compensate the aboriginal Tao people.

Thursday's demands came after nearly 500 natives from all six tribes on the island staged an angry protest on Feb. 20 to request the removal of the nuclear storage facility.

(By Christie Chen)