30 May 2002 – The state-owned Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) has denied categorically that it is planning to move the nuclear waste that has been stored on Orchid Island for years back to its nuclear power plants located on Taiwan proper.

Taipower officials said the company does not plan to bring back the 97 000 barrels of low-radiation nuclear waste from Taipower’s three nuclear power plants that have been stored since 1982 on Orchid Island, located off south-eastern Taiwan. Media in Taipei reported Wednesday that construction has been underway at Taipower’s First and Second Nuclear Power Plants in preparation for storing the nuclear waste now on Orchid Island.

Taipower officials said the construction is being carried out to renew the existing facilities of the plants in order to upgrade their environmental protection standards on the one hand, and to expand the plants’ storage capacities on the other.

They said the 97 000 barrels of low-radiation nuclear waste will be moved to a new nuclear waste dump to be built in a location yet to be decided. They ruled out the possibility of bringing the nuclear waste back to Taiwan. As its storage contract with the “Orchid Island Land Reclamation Committee” will expire at the end of this year, Taipower has been looking for an alternative nuclear waste storage site either at home or abroad.

The efforts, however, have been fruitless due to a combination of complicated factors. In the face of the looming deadline, Taipower is now seeking to extend its contract with the Orchid Island committee for another nine years. The negotiations are still going on, and it remains uncertain whether a deal can be struck in the end in view of the mounting environmental awareness among the residents of Orchid Island, mainly the Tao aboriginal people.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun visited Orchid Island last Thursday to express his concern about the safety of a nuclear waste dump there as well as the livelihood of the island’s residents. During his visit, Yu promised that the government would do its utmost to remove the nuclear waste from the island eventually.

For years, the Tao people on the island have been pushing Taipower to move the hazardous waste out of their homeland. Early this month, anti-nuclear Tao activists staged a three-day sit-in near the dumpsite to urge Taipower to honour its promise to relocate the nuclear waste.