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Taiwan takes step to move controversial nuke dump

world Updated: Mar 18, 2009 10:47 IST

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Taiwan authorities have taken a first step toward moving a nuclear waste dump after nearly three decades of health and environmental complaints about its current site on a remote island, a government official said on Wednesday.

The government has picked two possible new locations elsewhere in Taiwan for the Lan Yu Storage Site, which contains 97,672 barrels of semi-solid nuclear power plant waste on the rocky coast of outlying Orchid Island.

A final site for the T$200 billion ($5.9 billion) relocation should be chosen by April or May, pending results of local voter referenda, said Lee Wen-chin, a section chief with the government's State-owned Enterprise Commission.

Relocation will end a 27-year-old battle between the site's operator, Taiwan Power Co., which says it stores only low-level radiation on the unmarked site, and Orchid Island aboriginals who believe they have been poisoned, reducing life spans.

Taiwan chose the 45 square kilometre Orchid Island for its low population density but initially wanted to dispose the waste at sea before international practises changed. Orchid Island was never meant to be permanent, a power company spokesman said.

"The government has made a promise to find another place," Lee said. "Regardless of the results of the referendum, we will treat the matter seriously."

Resource-poor Taiwan, which relies on imports to meet most of its energy needs, has three ageing nuclear power plants that account for about 11 percent of its power generation capacity. Construction of a fourth plant is ongoing.