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Nuclear waste talks with China resumed: MOEA
Waste could be stored on uninhabited island: Chang
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-07 03:34 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Taiwan Power Corporation has reopened discussions with China about the handling of nuclear waste while an uninhabited island could be considered for its storage, Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch said Wednesday.

A significant portion of the radioactive waste from the country’s three operating nuclear power plants has been stored on Orchid Island, a small island inhabited by indigenous people off Taitung County. The government has been considering alternatives in other regions, but those have met with opposition from local residents.

Chang said that it was important “not to lay all eggs in the same basket,” and that if it were possible, the government could also consider storage on an uninhabited island. The minister did not mention any specific locations where that might be possible.

In response to a question from a lawmaker, he said that Taipower and a Chinese nuclear company had signed a memorandum in 2000 to send Taiwan’s nuclear waste to China, but the accord had not resulted in concrete steps. Both sides had resumed talks recently, Chang said, without revealing details.

The minister also told legislators that before the end of the year preparations would be ready to establish a special independent body to handle the issue of nuclear waste. Taipower did not have the necessary staff and professionalism at present, so the waste needed to be transferred to the new organization, the minister said. Hearings were currently being held to discuss plans for the separate body, he added.

Chang also announced that a promised national energy conference would most likely be held in late August. All kinds of opinions on the country’s possible energy policies would be heard at the event, he said.

The ruling Kuomintang’s legislative caucus decided Wednesday it would try and block opposition motions targeting the fourth nuclear plant which could emerge during a full Legislative Yuan meeting on Friday.

The KMT controls 65 out of 112 seats at the Legislative Yuan, but not all members are always present for votes. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party holds 40 seats.

The five motions likely to cause conflict Friday are a demand for Premier Jiang Yi-huah to deliver a report about the government’s decisions about the fourth nuclear plant, a call for an immediate halt to the project, a demand to scrap the plant this year, the removal of this year’s NT$8.1 billion (US$269 million) extra budget for the project, and a call on the premier to step down following the alleged beating by police of Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmaker Chou Ni-an during protests against the trade-in-services pact with China.

The committee setting the agenda for Friday's meeting rejected all five motions, which makes it likely the DPP and its allies will try and call for votes to change the schedule during the meeting itself, reports said.

At a meeting Wednesday noon, the KMT caucus decided to prevent any attempt by the opposition to tinker with Friday’s schedule. The DPP motions made no sense because the government had already decided to stop work on the nuclear power plant, KMT caucus chief whip Lin Hung-chih said.

Some lawmakers known for their opposition to the nuclear project, now nearing completion in Gongliao, New Taipei City, did not participate in the caucus discussions, reports said. Legislator Ting Shou-chung said he still needed to make up his mind how to vote tomorrow, while Lee Ching-hua, whose election district includes Gongliao, asked for flexibility.

In a separate development, the Legislature’s Economics Committee decided Wednesday that Taipower should provide the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the committee with the latest budget changes for the Gongliao project in 2014 within one month and three months respectively. Despite the presence of the NT$8.1 billion budget for this year, the government has already announced that it would stop work completely on the second reactor and seal the first reactor after safety tests.

The government only reached the decision after former DPP Chairman Lin Yi-hsiung held a hunger strike from April 22 to April 30 and after people all over the country expressed their support for him through rallies and marches. In an unprecedented move, incumbent DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang visited President Ma Ying-jeou, but their discussion turned into a debate without apparent results.

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