Orchid Islanders’ health unaffected by nuke waste

The Atomic Energy Council believes that Orchid Island's nuclear waste storage poses no health threats to residents. Image: Wantchinatimes.com

The health of Orchid Island residents has not been compromised by the presence of a nuclear waste storage facility, the Atomic Energy Council said March 3.

The AEC issued a clarifying statement following a news conference held by aboriginal Tao at the Legislative Yuan March 1 calling for the removal of the stored nuclear waste from their island, also known as Lanyu.

The results of tests over the years by its Radiation Monitoring Center, as well as by Taiwan Power, have indicated that the dose equivalent radiation that Lanyu plants and animals are exposed to is well below 0.1 megasieverts per year, a standard set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection in its 2003 report, the AEC said.

The council also noted that according to data from the Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Promotion, the increase in the incidence of cancer among Lanyu residents since 1980, two years before the establishment of the nuclear waste storage facility on the island, has not been notably higher than for Taiwan’s population as a whole.

In 1980, the cancer incidence rate for Taiwan was 86 per 100,000 people, rising to 275 in 2008, while that for Lanyu’s population was 35 per 100,000 in 1980, and 149 in 2008.

The AEC said inspection and repackaging work at the Orchid Island site was completed in November last year. Conditions are now normal and in compliance with safety standards, it added.

As for when and where the radioactive waste will be moved, the AEC pointed out that the matter must undergo comprehensive evaluation by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Taipower, and that the council cannot state a position in advance. It will ensure that any decisions are in line with safety regulations, the council said.

The AEC said it will urge Taipower to actively work out a plan for a final storage site for low-radiation waste, adding that it has written to the MOEA to request that it announce the candidate sites and coordinate with relevant local governments on related follow-up matters.

Before the storage site is relocated, the AEC said, it will continue rigorous management and control measures and closely monitor radiation levels to ensure the safety of Lanyu residents and the quality of the island’s environment.

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