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this report is from:


Hong Kong 15 May 1997

Greenpeace today announced the discovery of
major misrepresentations in the classification of
radioactive waste to be exported by Taiwan Power
Company (Taipower) to North Korea. Greenpeace
spokesperson Ho Wai Chi said the discovery raises
serious concerns for the safe transport and storage
of the waste.

"The waste is significantly more radioactive than
Taipower claims," said Ho. "Taipower has misled
the people of Taiwan, the international community
and the governments of neighbouring countries
about the dangers associated with shipping and
disposing of their radioactive waste in North

Taipower, Taiwan's government-run power utility,
signed a contract in January to ship up to 200,000
barrels of low level waste for final storage in North
Korea. The shipments are expected to begin in a
few months (1).

The Greenpeace team was accompanied by Mr.
John Large of Large & Associates, a British nuclear
engineering firm retained by Greenpeace to do an
independent evaluation of Taiwan's nuclear waste
sector. The group conducted a 10-day study of the
nuclear waste sector, and inspected waste facilities
at the Kuo Sheng nuclear power plant and on Lanyu

They discovered that the so-called low level
radioactive waste, which Taipower plans to export
to North Korea, contains ion exchange resins and
filter masses, some of the most dangerous wastes
produced by nuclear reactors (2).

"The waste that Taipower chooses to call low level,
and claims will not demand special handling, is
actually a soup of highly radioactive poisons that
requires complex technology, highly trained
personnel, and a fully developed infrastructure in
order to fulfil the most rudimentary safety
requirements," said Mr. Large. "It is difficult to
believe Taipower assurances that North Korea can
deal with this waste safely, when they don't even
tell the truth to their own people about what the
waste contains."

Greenpeace also discovered unsafe conditions at
Taiwan's Lanyu Island radioactive waste storage
site. Radiation levels recorded on the perimeter of a
storage trench indicate that radioactive materials
may be leaking from storage drums. In addition,
there appeared to be a lack of adequate facilities for
treatment of contaminated water, a serious
shortcoming in a climate of typhoons and torrential

This compares with a new waste storage facility,
built at the Kuo Sheng plant after lengthy protests
from local residents which contains a number of
basic safety features, and replaces an older
Lanyu-type facility which officials say was

"It took Kuo Sheng residents 10 years to force
Taipower to build a storage facility that conforms to
even basic safety requirements" said Ho. "The
people of Lanyu, despite years of protest, are still
living atop a leaking dump. And if the barrels are
moved to North Korea, what voice will those
residents have to protect their families from

"By exporting their waste, Taipower is creating the
potential for serious environmental consequences
for North Korea," Ho added. "Taipower must deal
with their own waste, including removing it from
Lanyu Island, and they must immediately cancel
this dangerous and irresponsible agreement with
North Korea."


(1) Strong local opposition by the indigenous Yami
people to the dumping of nuclear waste in shallow
trenches on Lanyu Island, 65 kilometres off
Taiwan's south-east coast, and by five candidate
communities for a new waste disposal facility on
Taiwan, forced Taipower to search abroad, where
they failed in attempts to fi lise plans to dump the
waste in the Marshall Islands and Russia. North
Korea, stricken with economic problems, signed the
contract in January 1997. They could receive up to
USD 230,000,000 for the waste, which will be stored
in an abandoned coal mine 90 kilometres north of
Seoul. If the shipments proceed, they set a
dangerous precedent: it will be the first time,
anywhere, that radioactive waste is exported for
final storage. back to text

(2) Ion exchange resins are used to strip liquid
streams in the reactor primary circuit and irradiated
(spent) storage fuel ponds. The resin beads or
pellets concentrate a wide range of (radio)activated
and fission products. In terms of (radio)activity and
persistence (half-life) ion exchange resins are very
active (20.1012 Bq/m3 to 200.1012 Bq/m3) and very
long-lived (tens of thousands of years). The current
Taiwan nuclear programme will generate
approximately 100-120 m3/year raw ion exchange
waste or about 200-290 m3 packaged per year.
Taipower has consistently stated that the material
to be shipped is "low level" waste and will not pose
a significant environmental risk. For example, in a
letter to Greenpeace on March 7 they wrote
"...because the radioactivity of the LLW is very low
which does not require a sophisticated technology
for disposal it is hard to believe that DPRK has no
ability to properly dispose of the LLW." In fact
Taipower's claim that the waste drums destined for
export contain mostly gloves and contaminated
clothing cannot be true: according to Taipower
officials all such material is incinerated on site.
back to text (3) Although no international agreement
at present bans waste exports, the scheme is
clearly in violation of the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) principle that radioactive
waste must be cared for in the country of origin
unless safety of treatment is enhanced by export.
The IAEA General Conference Resolution of
20-September-1996, Measures to Strengthen
International Co-operation in Nuclear, Radiation, and
Waste Safety states: "...radioactive waste should,
as far as compatible with the safe management of
such material, be disposed of in the State in which
it was generated, whilst recognising that, in certain
circumstances, safe management of radioactive
waste might be fostered through voluntary
agreements among Member States to use facilities
in one of them for the benefit of the other States..."
The principle is repeated in Point IX of the Preamble
to the Draft Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent
Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive
Waste Management. The Convention will be opened
up for signature in September or October 1997. Al
countries will be able to become parties to the
Convention, not only IAEA member states.

For further information please contact:

tel: +852 2854 8300, or +852 9027 2081 fax:
+852 2745 2426

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