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Taiwan reconsiders domestic N-waste storage

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 13, 1998) In January 1997, Taiwan signed an agreement with North Korea to store low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste in that country. However, not a single barrel has been transported due to all kinds of problems. Taiwan now reconsiders domestic storage of the waste and has announced six possible sites.

(488.4845) WISE Amsterdam - The signing of the contract on January 11, 1997, gave rise to large protests by environmental organizations and politicial pressure by several countries. Meanwhile, as no action has been taken by Taipower during the past year, North Korea has threatened to file a complaint with the International Court if Taipower fails to fulfill the contract it signed with Pyongyang. Taipower authorities, however, argue that the company has been carrying out its end of the agreement step by step over the past year.

In the past several months there were rumors that Taiwan could not meet the contract because of domestic and international political pressure. Already in December, South Korean newspapers claimed that the deal was off. One of the reasons mentioned was North Korea's failure to complete the storage facility--a disused coal mine 95 kilometers from the demilitarized zone which divides North and South Korea. Taipower officials say that the contract is still valid, adding that the approval process for an export license has been delayed by the Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council (AEC).
However, because Taiwan's plan to export (or as they call it, "store") waste to Russia, mainland China and the Marshall Islands all have failed (or are on the brink of failure) Taipower refocused its search on domestic locations. On February 26, Taipower identified six possible locations for the storage of the country's low- and intermediate-level waste. The six were selected in order of preference; number one is a location in the Kinmen county called Hsiaowuchiu. It would be awarded NT$2.1 billion (US$64.6 million) as compensation if the nuclear waste dumping plan is implemented, according to Taipower officials. Another NT$900 million (US$27.6 million) would be presented to the Kinmen county government, the administrative authority for Hsiaowuchiu, as a goodwill gesture.

Since 1982 Taipower has shipped it low- and intermediate-level waste to the Long-men Nuclear Waste Depository at Orchid Island. This island off Taiwan's southern coast has a unique ecosystem and is home to 3,000 Yami, the most isolated of Taiwan's indigenous peoples. The storage at that facility reached full capacity and it was Taipower's plan to remove that waste too and ship it to North Korea. For more information on the deal and protest, see WISE NC's 466.4628 (7 February 1997) and 468.4660 (14 March 1997).


  • The Korean Herald, 19 December 1997
  • Central News Agency of Taiwan, 27 February 1998

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