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Responding to protesters, nuclear authorities explain waste handling
Central News Agency
2014-03-05 10:25 PM
Taipei, March 5 (CNA) Energy authorities went on the defensive Wednesday for the second day in a row to offer details about the incineration of low-level nuclear waste amid accusations that they mishandled radioactive material. The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) and state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) stressed that burning up low-level waste is a regular practice and is handled according to environmental regulations and relevant laws. AEC Vice Chairman Chou Yuan-ching also promised that the council will this year complete a re-examination of 54 sites detected to have higher-than-normal levels of radioactivity as reported by anti-nuclear power activists. The comments came in response to a protest at Taipower's Taichung office Wednesday led by the Central Taiwan Antinuclear Action Alliance and Liu Li-er, a Taiwanese writer based in Japan. The alliance is planning another march Saturday. According to alliance convener Tsai Chih-hao, a group of concerned private citizens have discovered 54 locations across Taiwan with radiation three times over the permissible level since they began conducting a census in March 2013. Tsai said that Taipower, the operator of Taiwan's three nuclear power plants, incinerates thousands of barrels of low-level nuclear waste each year to lessen the number of storage sites for the wastes, which he implicitly linked to a nationwide radiation level that is 2-4 times the natural background level. Among the dozens of sites across Taiwan proper, Penghu and Kinmen, the alliance detected artificial nuclides of plutonium at National Taichung University of Science and Technology as well as caesium-134 and caesium-137 at Taichung Civic Square, he said, arguing that Taiwan is being polluted by radioactivity. Taipower divides the radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants into burnable and unburnable types, of which 100,000 barrels of unburnable waste is stored on the outlying island of Orchid Island, he said. Around the same number of barrels are stored within Taiwan's three active nuclear plants. Taipower spokesman Chai Fu-feng explained later in the day that low-end nuclear waste is treated in several stages before being incinerated, and the process is closely monitored throughout. If radioactivity reaches a higher than acceptable level during the incineration, an automatic shutdown mechanism will kick in, Chai said. Despite the explanation, however, there is no indication that the environmentalists will call off their Saturday demonstration to demand scrapping a fourth nuclear plant and an end to nuclear power on Taiwan. (By Lin Meng-ju and Lilian Wu)
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