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Lawmakers block Taipower offshore nuclear waste reprocessing plan

Lawmakers block Taipower offshore nuclear waste reprocessing plan

Taipei, March 16 (CNA) Lawmakers from across party lines on Monday overwhelmingly blocked a move by the state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower, ??) to allow for its nuclear waste to be reprocessed abroad.
During an Economics Committee briefing at the Legislative Yuan, the lawmakers accused Taipower and the Ministry of Economic Affairs of trying to initiate a bidding process with foreign companies without their oversight and of misusing the nation's nuclear back-end management fund before legal guidelines governing its administration have been drawn up. Bidding for the nuclear reprocessing contract, which began Feb. 17, is rapidly approaching its April 8 deadline. Under Taipower's plan, spent fuel rods will be shipped overseas, reprocessed and stored for two decades before being shipped back to Taiwan at an estimated total cost of NT$11.257 billion (US$355.5 million). Up to 1,200 spent fuel rods will be transported abroad over the next three years. Ruling Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Huang Chao-shun (???) said that as the contract spans 20 years and will require NT$1.695 billion in the first year of implementation, Taipower should have organized public hearings to discuss the matter. Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Chen Ming-wen (???) said that under Taipower's plan, it would cost at least NT$9 million to reprocess a single batch of spent fuel rods, and that in addition to the 1,200 batches included in the current plan, Taiwan's three nuclear plants as of the end of last year had accumulated about 170,000 batches of spent fuel rods, which would cost at least NT$180 billion to process under Taiwpower's proposed terms. Su Chen-ching (???), another DPP lawmaker said the current disposal plan will open the floodgates to runaway costs and demanded that the Economics Ministry retract the bidding announcement. In response, Minister of Economic Affairs John Deng (???) said that a nuclear waste disposal contract is required to ensure enough storage capacity for spent fuel rods to keep Taiwan's first and second nuclear power plants functioning until the end of their licensed operating periods. In the event that the spent fuel storage capacity is depleted, Taiwan's first and second nuclear power plants will be required to cease operation, causing a huge impact on power supply for northern Taiwan, said Deng. He added that the winning bidder will be responsible for extracting the plutonium and uranium content of the spent fuel rods and sealing the residual radioactive waste in glass before they are shipped back to Taiwan after 20 years. After reprocessing, the residual nuclear waste will have significantly diminished radioactivity and a much shorter half-life, Deng said. Taipower said the company will respect the decision reached by the lawmakers and will continue discussing the issue with the Economics Ministry, the Legislative Yuan and civic organizations. Taipower Vice President Chen Pu-tsan (???) said that overseas reprocessing of nuclear waste in the past decade has become the international norm, citing an agreement by France to reprocess Japan's spent fuel. He also said that the nuclear waste will be stored on uninhabited Taiwanese islands after it is returned to Taiwan. (By Milly Lin and Ted Chen)


Updated : 2021-09-20 13:40 GMT+08:00