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Opposition Mounts as Taiwan Plans to Ship Nuclear Waste Offshore via Voice of America

Taiwanese officials want to ship the island’s nuclear waste offshore as spent fuel accumulates at two older power plants, but the plan faces opposition from activists and the legislature, putting it on hold.

The two oldest of Taiwan’s three nuclear power plants are running out of space for spent fuel. The build-up of waste prompted government-run Taiwan Power Company to call in February for bids from companies overseas capable of removing the fuel, neutralizing radioactive material and helping to dispose what’s left. Firms in France, Japan, Russia and Britain are technically able to do the work, though none had tendered bids.

A month later the power company retracted its call for bids to process 1,200 bundles of spent fuel because parliament declined to approve a $367 million disposal budget. Taiwan Power spokesman Lin Te-fu said the company will try to persuade legislators again to allocate the money or risk a storage crisis at the island’s first nuclear plant.

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Opposition to Taiwan’s nuclear power crested last year after more than 200,000 activists marched in the streets, leading the government later to call off plans to open a $9.3 billion fourth plant. Taiwan’s other plants date to the 1970s and contribute 12 percent of the industrialized island’s power generation. Fossil fuel imports are the chief source of power, but the government calls those costly and polluting.

Opponents of nuclear power are now asking that Taiwan not send nuclear waste overseas. Hsu Hsin-hsin, spokeswoman for the Central Taiwan Antinuclear Action Alliance, said the plan would cost too much without answering calls to end nuclear power.

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