President Tsai Ing-wen ordered a probe into how Taiwan’s nuclear waste winded up on Orchid Island during a ceremony held in the Office of the President on Monday to apologize to aborigines across Taiwan.
Tsai welcomed the representatives of Taiwan’s 16 aboriginal tribes into the office and then held the apology ceremony. Tsai said she would order the authorities to launch a probe into the decision-making process regarding shifting nuclear waste from the main island to Orchid Island for storage there and a report of the fact-finding investigation. She also ordered appropriate compensation for the Tao Tribe dwelling on the island before the nuclear waste is finally handled.
About 100,000 barrels of nuclear waste from the nation’s three operational nuclear power plants have been stored at a nuclear waste storage complex on Orchid Island since 1982. In 2002 and 2012, there were major protests from local residents, calling on Taipower to remove the nuclear waste from the island.
Orchid Island is a 45 km² high island off the southeastern coast of Taiwan Island and separated from the Batanes of the Philippines by the Bashi Channel of the Luzon Strait. It is governed as Lanyu Township of Taitung County. The island is home to the Tao, an ethnic minority group who reportedly migrated to the island from the Batan Archipelago 800 years ago.
In response to Tsai’s apology, a senior Tao representative said the nuclear waste has been stored on Orchid Island for more than 30 years, pleading for the public to think for the aborigines on the island and to think about how to remove the nuclear waste from Orchid Island.
He said the nuclear waste on the island has been a deep pain of the islanders and something that they couldn’t handle by themselves, adding that hundred of barrels holding the waste have rotten out and the island could soon be wiped out completely by the radioactivity from the nuclear waste.
He said he thanked Tsai for making the apology to aborigines, adding that the government and the president must carry out what they apologized for.