Thirty years ago, the indigenous Tao inhabitants of Taiwan's Orchid Island were told their home had been chosen as the location of a fish cannery and with it would come employment and economic growth beyond their subsistence existence.
Instead, they got a nuclear waste facility, and they now worry about the impact of a growing stockpile of low-level radioactive waste on their farms and fishing grounds. Tens of thousands of the barrels of waste are corroding, and the islanders fear widespread contamination.
Taiwan sits on the edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the most earthquake prone region in the world, and after the Fukushima disaster, concerns are growing about its nuclear power plants sitting on such shaky ground.
But the islanders face a fierce fight, a powerful mainland power company and, because of its disputed nationhood, Taiwan is allowed to ship its waste for processing overseas.
Taiwan is home to three nuclear power plants and on the main island, the government is building a fourth nuclear power station just kilometres from an active seismic fault and only 8km from the capital, Taipei.
There are fears the two reactors are susceptible to a Fukushima style disaster. The controversial construction has been dogged by design flaws and problems.
The government is now promising to hold a referendum on its future. But if the reactor does not go ahead, the country’s nuclear future is in question, along with the $9bn already spent on the plant. Moreover, the state owned power company, Taipower, would face bankruptcy and any undertaking to relocate the nuclear dump from Orchid Island would vaporise.
Should earthquake-prone Taiwan pursue or abandon nuclear power? Share your thoughts with us @AJ101East #TaiwanNuclear.
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