Investigation: Lanyu chosen as temporary nuclear waste storage site

The results of a survey found that the best sea dumping location was only 120 nautical miles from the Philippines


Investigation: the massive nuclear waste stored on Orchid Island (Lanyu) was initially intended to be dumped into the ocean in the future. (By Central News Agency)

A fact-finding team has found that the massive nuclear waste stored on Orchid Island (Lanyu) was intended to be kept there temporarily before the ultimate disposal of ocean dumping could be carried out.

The fact-finding team, headed by Minister without Portfolio Lin Wan-I, was set up after President Tsai Ing-wen ordered an investigation into the initial decision making process regarding the storage of the nuclear waste on Orchid Island.  

The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) presented 87 documents in the fact-finding team’s first meeting on Oct. 28, providing an outline of the initial decision making about 45 years ago. The documents indicated that by November 1970, Taiwan Power Company’s plan to build nuclear plants had advanced to the implementation stage, and therefore the AEC invited related authorities to attend “meetings to discuss the ultimate method for low level radioactive waste (LLRW) disposal.”

The documents indicated that four methods of disposal were being considered at that time, which included being stored “in deserted mining pits or tunnels,” ”in remote mountains or underground fortifications used by the Japanese to station troops," and  "on offshore islands” as well as “ocean dumping.”   

The conclusion of the discussion ruled out the first and second options due to factors such as being prone to landfalls and the proximity to residential areas.  

As many advanced countries used ocean disposal at that time, scholars and experts participating in the meetings favored the option, documents suggested. However, after the results of a survey found that the best sea dumping location was only 120 nautical miles from the Philippines, the option was put on hold to avoid causing international disputes, according to the documents.  

The government then decided to select offshore islands for temporary storage before ocean dumping became feasible, and after exploring 14 offshore island sites, the Long Men area of Orchid Island emerged as the most suitable site, the documents indicated.  

The area was chosen for its isolated topography, which is located on a seashore flat surrounded by mountains on the other three sides with no residents within 5 kilometers as well as for its geographical position considered favorable for future sea dumping of LLRW, the documents indicated.  

However, since 1993, ocean disposal has been banned by international treaties.

The AEC said the decision to select Orchid Island as the storage site began in 1972 and approved in 1978. The construction of the site was competed in 1982, the same year the site was open for use, the AEC said.