Taiwan’s uranium reserves to be disposed of in 2 years: minister

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In this Oct. 23, 2017 file photo, Atomic Energy Council Minister Hsieh Shou-shing answers questions at the Legislative Yuan. The minister said Monday that Taiwan's uranium reserves would be disposed of in 2 years, at a planned cost of NT$150 million. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – A move to dispose of Taiwan’s uranium reserves is expected to be completed within two years, at a planned cost of NT$150 million (US$4.96 million), Atomic Energy Council Minister Hsieh Shou-shing (謝曉星) said Monday.

A memorandum of understanding was drafted between the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) and an unnamed contractor earlier this year to remove the uranium reserves, Hsieh said in a committee hearing at the legislature.

Hsieh told legislators that an earlier draft was initially agreed between the AEC and French multinational group AREVA TN, but fell through for unspecified reasons.

Negotiations to remove the uranium reserves are ongoing with a new contractor and hopefully the deal will soon be finalized, Hsieh said, adding that the uranium reserves would be shipped out of Taiwan by 2019.

Meanwhile, Ma Yin-pang (馬殷邦), director general of the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research (INER), told reporters during a committee meeting break that it is expected the agreement will be signed early next year.

“The uranium reserves disposal will be completed the following year after all the necessary paperwork is finished,” Ma said.

In the 1980s, Taiwan imported about 35 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) from the United States and France to carry out uranium enrichment that produces fuel for nuclear reactors. However, due to changes in the country’s nuclear fuel development policies, the uranium enrichment plan was later scrapped.

Hence, the uranium hexafluoride has since been unused and is currently stored in cylinders at an AEC facility. 

By Huang Ya-chuan and Ko Lin