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Activists challenge government on nuclear waste management policy

2011/11/28 20:03:23

Taipei, Nov. 28 (CNA) Environmental groups charged Monday that Taiwan's government has not resolved how to deal with nuclear waste and proposed suspending operations at the country's three nuclear power plants until the issue was dealt with.

The environmentalists made the appeal at an environmental assessment meeting held by the Cabinet-level Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) on the government's radioactive waste management policy.

During the meeting, officials from the Atomic Energy Council (AEC), the country's top nuclear regulatory body, presented a report on its proposed approach to dealing with nuclear waste that will become official policy if approved by the EPA assessment committee.

One of the plan's centerpieces was to have nuclear waste recycled overseas before shipping it back to Taiwan for permanent storage.

But environmental activists, including Green Citizens' Action Alliance Deputy Secretary-General Hung Shen-han, were not convinced the solution was viable and advocated shutting down Taiwan's three nuclear power plants until the issue was clearly addressed.

Hung contended that one way or another, radioactive waste had to be stored either at home or abroad, and no foreign country has so far been willing to lease Taiwan land for storage of the waste.

He acknowledged that radioactive waste could be recycled overseas but said the leftover material was still unstable and would still have to be stored in Taiwan, which he saw as a bad option.

Hung compared nuclear waste to a ticking time-bomb that threatened the life and property of Taiwan's people because of the unstable geographic nature of the island, which is prone to earthquakes.

Wang Chung-ming of the Green Party Taiwan suggested that the government include the proposal to suspend nuclear power plant operations in the report the AEC was presenting to the EPA committee for approval.

The report, which the activists said had many other loopholes and problems, also outlined four principles on which waste management should be based -- securing residents' approval, ensuring safety, reducing waste production, and developing efficient recycling and storage technologies.

Taiwan's low-level radioactive waste is currently stored on the outlying Orchid Island and in the three nuclear power plants in which it is being produced.

The government has selected Wuchiu in Kinmen and Daren in Taitung to serve as permanent storage sites for the waste, but it has encountered strong opposition from people in the two townships.

(By Hsu Chih-wei and Elizabeth Hsu)