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Orchid islanders repeat calls for removal of nuclear waste

Orchid islanders repeat calls for removal of nuclear waste

Taipei, Dec. 30 (CNA) The indigenous Tao people of Lanyu, an island off southeastern Taiwan also called Orchid Island, reiterated their call Friday for the government to address the issue of the nuclear waste stored on the island. Braving rain and low temperatures, 40 Tao tribesmen, dressed in their traditional loincloths and rattan armor, staged a protest in front of the Presidential Office to call on the government to push the state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) to end Lanyu's plight as a receptacle for radioactive waste from Taiwan proper over the past 29 years. Protest organizer Kuo Chien-ping, a shaman also known as Fuayuan, said Lanyu residents have been extremely concerned in the wake of reports in November that radioactive cobalt 60 and caesium 137 had been detected outside Taipower's nuclear waste site on the island. Some 100,000 barrels of nuclear waste have been shipped to Lanyu since the site was inaugurated in 1982, according to Taipower.
"The Tao people are facing a crisis of racial extinction," Kuo said.
Lanpoan, a Tao poet from Lanyu, questioned whether anybody in Taiwan has ever cared about the safety of the 3,000 residents of Lanyu or the future of the tribe. "What we need is not a new president. What we need is a safe place to live, an island where the Tao can live from generation to generation," he said. The protesters called for the government to push Taipower to empty the existing Lanyu storage complex, clean it up, and return the site to the Tao people who have lived there for thousands of years.
They called for the government to offer regular checkups for the residents and to form a team to monitor radioactive substances in the environment. In response to the reports on the radioactive substances, Taipower said recently 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. Although the barrel replacement was conducted within a well-enclosed space, it was "inevitable" that dust in the air would float from the plant to the outside before being taken by rain to the ground, a Taipower official said. The Tao protesters delivered their protest statement to the three respective presidential candidates -- President Ma Ying-jeou, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party's Tsai Ing-wen and the People First Party's James Soong -- and demanded their endorsement of the appeal. (By Zoe Wei and Deborah Kuo)