(October 19, 1990) Taiwan is considering dumping radioactive wastes from its nuclear power industry into the ocean. A report by Dr. Chao Min Tsai of the Atomic Energy Council, and Taiwan's most senior official involved in nuclear waste disposal, and C. Chung of the Institute of Nuclear Science claims, "Among several alternatives for the final disposal of radioactive waste, in particular low-level waste, ocean dumping will probably prove the most feasible method."
(340.3401) WISE Amsterdam - Taiwan, like many countries which went into nuclear energy in a big way, is now facing a waste disposal crisis. It began its nuclear power program in 1978 and its nuclear industry continues to grow. The report notes that because Taiwan is densely populated, "radioactive waste could be a serious hazard if not properly handled." The way it has chosen to handle its growing stockpile of low-level radioactive waste so far is to dump it on tiny Lan-Yu island, 75 km south of the mainland. Since 1982, Taiwan has shipped 66,000 drums of the waste to Lan-yu, which it describes as a "temporary" storage site.
LIST OF CONTRACTING PARTIES TO THE LDC
Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Byelorussian SSR, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Gabon, Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Lybian Arab Jamahiriya, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukrainian SSR, United Arab Emirates, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom, United States, Yugoslavia, Zaire.
With current storage facilities expected to be full within three years, Taiwan is looking for a permanent disposal site. Dr. Tsai says ocean dumping in the deep sea trenches of the north Pacific is the most feasible and economic option. But, he says, Taiwan would only go ahead with that option if it was internationally acceptable.
In 1985, nations party to the London Dumping Convention (LDC) declared a moratorium on the dumping of nuclear waste at sea. The LDC is one of the most important global conventions for the prevention of marine pollution. More than 60 countries are party to the Convention, which meets annually in London and is responsible for regulating the disposal of wastes at sea from ships, aircraft, and other man-made structures. Their moratorium on nuclear waste is due to stay in place until an international panel of experts has finished a review of dumping practices by 1995.
The moratorium is now under threat from a number of nations who wish to resume ocean dumping as soon as possible. They include the UK, Japan, France and the US - all of whom are faced, like Taiwan, with a growing radioactive waste crisis onshore. Although the moratorium will not be formally reviewed by the LDC until 1991 or 1992, it is expected that contracting parties wishing to resume dumping will intensify their campaign at this year's meeting to ensure the moratorium is lifted. This year's meeting is to take place from 29 October through 2 November.
Even if the moratorium stays in place for some time, Taiwan is prepared. Dr. Tsai says that the next option would be a near-shore sub-seabed disposal site and that he hopes work on a facility will begin within two years.
It is unclear at this stage whether sub-seabed facilities are covered by the moratorium. Australia's Dr. Dominic De Stoop, chairman of the international panel of experts which is reviewing all aspects of nuclear dumping at sea - and who opposes any sea dumping whether it is in the ocean or below the sea floor - says that because there is no direct contact with the ocean (at least initially), sub-seabed facilities are not covered. But he admits there is ambiguity on this.
Note: The LDC will be meeting at: International Maritime Organisation, 4, Albert Embankment, London SE1, UK, tel: 071 735 7611.
- Pacific News Bulletin, August 1990, p.14
- Greenpeace press brief, 15 Oct. 1990 (via GreenNet, gp.press, gn topic 96, 15 Oct. 1990)
- ABC Radio, 6 Sept. 1990 (via GreenNet, gn.nuclear, gn topic 132, 10 Sept. 1990).
Contact: NFIP/Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, P0 Box 3148, Auckland Central PO, Auckland, Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Elisabeth Mealey, Greenpeace Communications, 30-31 Islington Green, London Ni 8XE, UK, tel: 071 515 0275.