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New Taipei opposes plan for dry cask storage of used nuclear rods

2012/07/17 22:08:42

Taipei, July 17 (CNA) New Taipei environmental officials voiced opposition Tuesday at a public hearing to the proposed construction of dry cask storage for used nuclear rods at the country's second nuclear power plant, located in the city's suburban Wanli District.

Cheng Hui-fen, a section chief at the city's Environmental Protection Department, said that "the best solution is not to build the storage facilities at all."

The city rejected an application by Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), which had asked to release an official statement that would announce the proposal for the construction, she said at the hearing, organized by the Atomic Energy Council (AEC).

Cheng noted that the city government does not have the authority to decide whether or not to build the storage facility, but can reject the application to publish the proposal, which is one of the required procedures for such projects.

Taipower said the spent nuclear rods are currently stored in pools at the plant's two units. The pools for both units 1 and 2 are close to reaching their maximum capacity, at 4,398 rods each. The pool for unit 1 currently contains 4,024 rods, while the other has 3,872 rods, it said.

The company said the dry cask storage will be necessary when the pools meet their maximum capacities, and added that the storage will not be a permanent disposal site for nuclear waste because highly radioactive waste needs to be buried 300-1,000 meters underground.

Radiation detected at the dry cask storage site will not exceed 0.05 mSv per year per person, which is 20 percent of the 0.25 mSv legal maximum limit that a person can be exposed to, according to Taipower.

However, opposition Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin questioned the lack of capacity at the pools, asking Taipower officials why they did not think of the situation when they knew from the beginning that after 40 years of operation, lots of fuel rods would have been produced.

She suggested that government should shut down the first nuclear power plant, which is in New Taipei's Shihmen District, as well as the one in Wanli, to reduce nuclear waste until deciding what to do with the spent rods.

Resident groups and environmental activists said that although the population near the Wanli plant is not large, the area attracts up to 5.3 million tourists annually.

They expressed doubt as to the appropriateness of building storage facilities for highly radioactive waste in an area popular with tourists and asked the AEC to conduct a risk assessment on the health risks before reaching any conclusion.

(By Lin Meng-ju and Jamie Wang)
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