Tawu township in Taitung County has become a promising possible site for a permanent repository for low-level nuclear waste after President Chen Shui-bian ruled out two outlying islands as candidates.
Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) officials said yesterday that influential political figures from the county were in Japan to investigate radioactive waste disposal facilities there.
The group, led by Taitung County Commissioner Hsu Ching-yuan, began the trip on Wednesday.
Before leaving for Japan, Shu was reported as saying that the county would accept the waste dump as long as nuclear safety, sound compensation and an agreement from residents could be ensured.
Taipower will arrange another free trip next month for county officials, including the commissioner and council speaker, to Sweden to witness how radioactive waste could be managed in tunnels, Taipower officials said yesterday.
Aboriginal Legislator May Chin said yesterday that the trip for the officials and their families, which would cost NT$8 million, should be regarded as a bribe.
"Taipower should do things in accordance with the law and avoid giving bribes," Chin said.
Chin said that building a final repository for radioactive waste in a remote township might not only pollute the environment but also deprive Aboriginal people of their rights.
According to Chinese-language media, Taipower now sees Tawu township as a prospective site for a final repository after encountering difficulties in agreeing an original plan to build a storage facility in Wuchiu, Kinmen County.
Taipower officials said that residents of Wuchiu were also treated by the company to visit a high-level waste disposal site built in Rokkasho Village in Aomori Prefecture, Japan.
Impoverished Tawu township, with a population of less than 10,000, is located in a remote mountainous area about 60km from Taitung City.
Since late December, the government has been challenged by not only environmentalists but also residents of Orchid Island, who demand a clear timeframe for the removal of radioactive material from the island.
Nearly 100,000 barrels of low-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, hospitals and research institutes are stored at the site.
Chen said previously that he felt sorry for the delay in removing the waste and on Wednesday promised that it would be removed by the end of this year.
Taipower officials said that a draft outlining regulations on choosing the site of final repositories for low-level radioactive waste was passed by the Cabinet in December and has been sent to the Legislative Yuan for approval.
According to Taipower, after the legislation is past, the repository would not be completed for at least five years because of the time it would take to choose an appropriate site, conduct environmental impact assessments, design the repository and then build it.