Taipower forced to halt operations after lawmakers accuse utility of “flat out lying”

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Lawmakers demanded an explanation from the Atomic Energy Council this week following reports that a Taipower survey had been under way for some time in Xiulin Township without the local government or residents having been informed.

Taipower was accused of “flat out lying” for saying that a geological exploration project in Hualien County was not related to finding a site to store radioactive waste from the country’s nuclear power plants.

The state-run utility, which is already under fire for the imminent rise in electricity rates, has been searching for a place to store the low-grade waste from its three nuclear plants after decades of protests by the Tao indigenous population of Orchid Island against the local storage.

Spent fuel assemblies are now kept temporarily at the three operating nuclear power plants, and in 20 years Taiwan will have to face the problem of where to store them, an official said.

Liu Wen-chung, an official from the AEC, said that no selection would be made for 20 years as the council and Taipower were scheduled to conduct technological research between 2005 and 2017.

According to Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council Minister, Tsai Chuen-horng, the AEC had approved a five-phase plan by Taipower, aiming to create a permanent site somewhere in the country to store spent fuel from Taiwan’s six nuclear reactors in 2055, at an expected cost of NT$100 billion (US$3.38 billion), but secrecy surrounded to official company documents, which only identified the location of the tests as ‘East Taiwan,’.

Taipower and the council denied that the site had been officially selected, however both parties said this week that Taipower will halt a “geological exploration project“, in Hualien County following the allegations.

Local officials now argue that the government should re-consider its policy for storing nuclear waste in remote townships.

The company chief admitted it would like to apologize to local residents for failing to conduct efficient communication with them and said the project will be halted until the company reaches an agreement and winning approval from local communities and the legislature, Taipower President Lee Han-shen said.

Kao Yang-sheng, chief of the Executive Yuan’s liaison office in eastern Taiwan, also apologized and reiterated that Taipower’s tests were only aimed at researching the geological stability of the soil in the Hsiulin area, and granite rocks there.

An initial planning stage for the disposal program involves building a geological lab in Xiulin to study the granite bedrock there, as granite has been determined to be the most suitable rock in Taiwan for the storage of nuclear waste.

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