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Taiwan: Indigenous Tao People's 30 Year Nuclear ‘Nightmare’

After Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident last year, more and more Taiwanese have started to become aware of the problems caused by nuclear power plants. One of the most serious issues is nuclear waste on Orchid Island, where the Tao people have lived for generations.

In December 30, 2011, a group of Tao people went to Taipei to protest against [zh] the nuclear waste storage facility situated on the Orchid Island in front of the presidential building. However, the president did not respond to their protest.

Another protest took place on February 20, 2012, with more than 500 Tao people demonstrating [zh] in front of the nuclear waste storage facility on the island due to concern over radioactive isotopes detected outside it and their anger with the owner company Taiwan Power's unfulfilled promise to store the nuclear waste elsewhere.

Jessie Tai from Wired Taiwan explained why [zh] Taiwan Power failed to keep their promise and move the nuclear waste out of the Orchid Island by the end of 2002:

因為核廢料處理最終場址的選定程序過於漫長,以及把核廢料運往國外處理的計畫失敗。

It takes a long time to find another place for long-term nuclear waste storage, and the original plan to ship the nuclear waste abroad failed.

A reporter from Taiwan New Talk listed the Tao people's demand [zh]:

首先,已經完成核廢桶檢整的貯存場應立即遷出蘭嶼;其次,蘭嶼將不續租土地給台電放置核廢料,已造成污染之土地必須進行除污與活化;第3,政府部門與台電應對核廢料貯存在蘭嶼的錯誤政策進行檢討,並重新與達悟族人談判後續賠償事宜,以彌補多年來達悟民族因核廢料所損失的健康。

First, the packed nuclear waste should be moved out of Orchid Island immediately; second, Orchid Island will not be leased to Taiwan Power company for nuclear waste storage anymore, and the contaminated land should be restored and revitalized; third, the government and Taiwan Power company should review their mistaken policy of putting nuclear waste on Orchid Island, and they should discuss with the Tao people about compensation for any health problems caused by the nuclear waste storage facility.

Some Tao people have also joined the political party and are pressuring the government through the legislature [zh], according to Jessie Tai's report from Wired Taiwan:

在農曆年前的大選中,提倡環保的綠黨為了強調其反核立場,將長期推動反核運動的達悟族單親媽媽希婻瑪飛洑列為該黨不分區立委名單第一人,綠黨雖然後來並未達到政黨票5%的國會門檻,但在蘭嶼卻創紀錄地拿下35.7%的政黨票,突顯出蘭嶼人長久以來的不滿,以及對自身家園環境的隱憂。

In the national legislative election held this January, to emphasize their anti-nuclear stance, the Green party, which has advocated environmental awareness, made Sinan Mavivo, a single mother from the Tao aboriginal group, the first candidate in their list of legislator-at-large seats. Although the Green party did not win more than 5% of the votes to have any legislator-at-large seat, the Green party won 35.7% of the votes on Orchid Island. This new record shows the anger the Tao people have had for a long time and their worries for their homeland.

Below is a documentary produced by Taiwan Indigenous TV on the history of the nuclear waste problem on Orchid Island:

Here is selected translation of the video script:

0'18″: To the Tao people of Orchid Island, the scene of first shipment of nuclear waste in the harbor of the Orchid Island in 1982 is a 30-year-long nightmare.

4'24″: On February 20, 1988, Tao people protested against the nuclear waste storage facility. Twenty four years ago, on a rainy day, the residents of Orchid Island angrily gathered together in front of the nuclear waste storage facility. They shouted their slogan loudly, “I love Orchid Island, and I do not want nuclear waste.” The Tao people's protest against nuclear waste started from that moment.

4'53″: On June 1, 1995, the Tao people were angry about the Taiwan Power company's plan to build six new nuclear waste storage trenches. There were protests against nuclear waste in Orchid Island and Taipei at the same time.

5'19″: (Former President Chen Shui-Bian said on TV): Our policy about nuclear waste on Orchid Island is very clear. We will move all the nuclear waste out of Orchid Island before the end of 2002. We will give the beautiful island back to the Tao people.

5'40″: The township magistrate of the Orchid Island asked, “Did the people on Orchid Island produce this nuclear waste? Who produced it?” The crowd answered, “Taiwan.” The township magistrate asked, “Do we use the electricity generated by the nuclear power plants?” The crowd answered, “No.” The township magistrate said, “Do not give others what you do not want. Chen Shui-Bian should eat this”.

6'44″: In 1996, the nuclear waste storage facility was full. There are more than 97,000 barrels of nuclear waste [in it]. However, Taiwan Power company still planned to ship more nuclear waste to Orchid Island. The Tao people were mobilized to surround the harbor. At last, the ship of nuclear waste was blocked in the waters off the small island. That ship returned to Taiwan. No more nuclear waste has been shipped to Orchid island.

7'36″: Breaking news: there are radioactive isotopes, Cobalt-60 and Caesium-137, [evident] outside the nuclear waste storage facility on Orchid Island. Although the Atomic Energy Council said the amount of radioactive isotopes is far below the standard, researchers found these radioactive isotopes are from the nuclear waste storage facility.

8'28″: Looking at this photo, you can see what happened in the nuclear waste storage trenches in the past 30 years. This is horrifying. As a mother, when I look at the photo, I think our health may be seriously threatened. I cannot stop yelling. In the past 30 years, in last year, we Tao people have kept yelling. We are yelling for help.

9'09″: What you throw in front of our houses will make the Tao people die and become extinct. You are talking about increasing the compensation. I am sorry. Can you tell Mr. Ma Ying-Jeou what you just said? The only thing we ask for is the removal of nuclear waste from Orchid Island.

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