There’re things that tear people apart and also bring people together, people from different countries with different languages, histories and cultures. The nuclear industry is also one of those things. That’s what brought us Taiwanese and Australians together.
Since Australia is the main supplier of the uranium used in Taiwan, when Taiwan is using electricity created by nuclear, what’s being sacrificed is the well-being of Australia.
Looking at the uranium mining industry in Australia, and then looking back at what’s been happening in Taiwan’s nuclear power and waste management, we realize the similar challenge we’re facing, we realize this industry is consist of lies, cover-ups and denials, at the price of the sacrifices of the people from the grassroots.
There’re 3 operating nuclear power plants in Taiwan, providing 18% of the electricity. The first nuclear power plan was commissioned in 1978, and the plan of fourth nuclear power plant was brought up in the 80’s. Since then, the general public started to be aware of the injustice and the risks nuclear power has been causing.
Because of the controversy regarding the construction plan, over the past 3 decades, Taiwanese has witnessed the state-owned Taiwan Power Company’s numerous scandals, corruptions, construction accidents and delays. And Tai Power has doubled the budget up to 330 billion New Taiwan dollar which is about 7672 billion Australia dollar.
When it comes to nuclear waste, Tai Power has done more things to deepen people’s mistrust of them.
In 1982, the government sent the nuclear waste to Orchid Island, telling the Tao people those are just fish cans. There are now 10 thousand drums of nuclear waste in total, many of them have started to rust 20 years ago without any management, and the surface water have been discharged out of the waste storage site directly. Even though Tai power assure people there’s absolutely no radiation leakage, it’s been really hard for the public to believe them.
The Paiwan people in Taitung could be the next to face a similar situation, since the Ministry of Economic Affairs have chosen Taitung county, the area that consume the least electricity (only 0.4%) and with the highest percentage of aboriginal population, as one of the two proposed nuclear waste site. If the old nuclear plants get life extensions and the newest nuclear power plant get to operate in the future, there could be up to 1 million drums of nuclear waste kept in the storage site.
Tai Power and the government have been giving promise about the safety and the prosperity brought by the nuclear waste site. However, in our opinion, the government has not only been giving misleading information, but they have also failed to implement a site section process under the condition of justice between different regions and ethnicities.
Paules Tjangazavan , the 90 years old traditional leader of the Nantien village in Taitung, has been stand firmly with her position against nuclear waste and protect her ancestor’s land for many years. She said “ This land was given by our ancestor. We can’t just mess it up. We should protect it, take good care of it instead. We don’t want the faeces of nuclear power to come here because we just want our peaceful, healthy life. Compensation and money won’t change where we stand about this thing.”
We know there’s still a long way to go to accomplish a nuclear free future and nuclear waste policy with more social justice, there have been some exciting achievement: There were 220,000 participants in the no nuke rally all around the country in 2013; A complete nuclear-power phase-out received the majority support in various polls; More and more citizens across different ideological spectrums, social position and generations have publicly expressed their supports for a nuclear free society through medias, music, films, literatures, graphic arts; The government has finally suspended the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant in 2014.
It’s getting harder for the government to threaten people, telling people they won’t survive without nuclear power, that nuclear power is clean and safe, since there have been growing movements and awareness against it. And getting to know more about the resistance against uranium mining make Taiwanese to understand about what we are fighting and what we are protecting in a deeper level. We’re fighting against the dictatorship that control and exploit the natural resource, we’re fighting the ideology says that it’s inevitable to sacrifice the people and the whole ecosystem to develop our economy, people can only life a better life if the economies grow, and we just going to consume more and more energy for the economy to grow. What are protecting is our imagination to create a different future, a future with more than one standard of being wealthy and happy, a future that we can consume less and life better without sacrificing other people and destroys the balance of the nature.
We would like participants of Walkatjurra Walkabout to know that we’re deeply moved and inspired by your actions and we hope to learn more your experiences, to connect more people beyond the boundaries of nations and ethnicity so we can achieve a nuclear-free future together.
14th, August, 2015
Coalition of Taitung Communities Against Nuclear Waste
Green Citizen’s Action Alliance