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Taiwan utility told to remove nuclear waste from island within 9 years

Orchid Island houses 100,000 barrels of low radioactive waste

Nuclear waste.

Nuclear waste. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The government has told Taiwan Power Corporation to complete the removal of 100,000 barrels of nuclear waste from Orchid Island within the next nine years, reports said Wednesday.

The small island off the coast of Taitung County in the southeast is populated mostly by indigenous people, while the country’s environmental movement has for years demanded a solution from the government and from Taipower.

The Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council (AEC) reportedly agreed to separate the issues of the removal from Orchid Island and the search for a new location.

The barrels from the island will first be transported either to the Third Nuclear Plant in Pingtung County or to the Longtan Institute of Nuclear Energy Research in Taoyuan City, reports said.

The preparations for the move by sea would take five years, the move itself four years, according to the timetable designed by Taipower.

As to the eventual end destination for nuclear waste from Taiwan’s three operating nuclear plants, the AEC reportedly told Taipower not to limit the possibilities to remote uninhabited islands or isolated areas, but to take all of Taiwan into consideration. The utility should change the past practice of only looking at relatively socially vulnerable areas, the AEC reportedly said.

The selection process needed to include close cooperation and consultation with the local authorities and population, the Cabinet body said.

Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Taiwan’s own environmentalist movement gained force, leading to the government shelving plans to build a fourth nuclear plant. The new government of President Tsai Ing-wen, which came to power last May, has promised to turn Taiwan into a nuclear-free country by 2025.