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Nuclear waste in Orchid island, Taiwan

The Tao have been fighting to remove nuclear waste for 30 years but the waste still remains. Located a two-hour ferry ride from Taiwan’s southeast coast, Orchid Island — known locally as Lanyu — houses nearly 100,000 barrels of nuclear waste.


Around the Chinese New Year season in 1991, the Yami people rose up in protests which caught the attention of the media and public in all of Taiwan. Led by Kuo JIan-ping, a Yami Presbyterian missionary, and with the support of anti-nuclear groups in Taiwan like the  Taiwan Environmental Protection Union and the Green Association, the Yami anti-nuclear group held demonstrations on Orchid Island and in Taipei, where they carried a protest letter straight to the Taiwan Power Company. (3). The Yami protest letter contained three requests: 1) the expansion of the second phase of construction on the waste site be stopped; 2) the immediate stoppage of transport of nuclear waste from Taiwan to the Orchid Island storage site; 3) by June 30, 1991, the shutdown of the storage site. Their first request was met, although there are likely other factors involved besides the protests. But the  peration of the storage site  continued despite the opposition.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Nuclear waste in Orchid island, Taiwan
State or province:Orchid island (Lanyu)
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Specific commodities:Nuclear waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Since 1991, the Tao have been fighting to remove the nuclear waste but the site and the waste still remain. Located a two-hour ferry ride from Taiwan’s southeast coast, Orchid Island — known locally as Lanyu — houses nearly 100,000 barrels of radioactive waste from power plants on the mainland of Taiwan. It serves as a sore point of contention among the indigenous Tao towards the Taiwanese government (4).

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:5,000
Start of the conflict:1991
Company names or state enterprises:Taiwan Power Company (Taipower ) from Taiwan
Relevant government actors:President of Taiwan
Government of Taiwan
Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council (AEC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Lanyu Youth Action Alliance
Council of Indigenous Peoples (Taiwan)
Survival International
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Tao (or Yami) indigenous people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
In 2002, almost 2,000 protesters, including many aboriginal residents of Taiwan's Orchid Island staged a sit-in in front of the storage plant, calling on Taipower to remove nuclear waste from the island. They were also protesting against the government's failure to keep its pledge to withdraw 100,000 barrels of low-level nuclear waste from their isle by the end of 2002. 15 years later, the Tao youth Young Aborigines on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) protested for a clear deadline for the removal of nuclear waste from the island.
Raising flags on the island, the campaigners said they would not accept an apology from the government and would not accept further delays for removal of the waste material.

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsRisk of nuclear radiation
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Negotiated alternative solution
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Removal of the nuclear waste. Young Aborigines on Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) in 2017 protested for a clear deadline for the removal of nuclear waste from the island. Raising flags on the island, the campaigners said they would not accept an apology from the government and would not accept further delays for removal of the waste material. The Orchid Island Youth Movement Alliance, which organized the protest, said that since President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) apology last year (2016) to Aborigines for historical injustices, no action has yet been taken on the issue of nuclear waste on Orchid Island — where more than 90 percent of residents are Tao. The Lanyu nuclear waste storage facility was built in 1982 and stopped processing nuclear waste in 1996. In February 2017, the government reiterated its promise to relocate waste on the island and panned several potential sites including uninhabited islands near Keelung, as well as Kinmen, Penghu and Matsu counties. Chanting slogans outside the waste facility, campaigners demanded that the government take concrete action and clarify a timetable for when waste relocation would be completed. “We are not interested in empty promises or in talking things over,” one campaigner said. (5).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:By 2016, President Tsai apologized to the nation’s indigenous peoples in a formal speech at the Presidential Palace August 1, 2016. In the speech, the president made specific reference to the Tao (Yami) people of Orchid Island (Lanyu), and apologized for the fact that a nuclear waste facility was constructed on their island without their knowledge or approval.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

2015. Bridging the Blue-Green Divide: The Role of Environme

ntal NGOs in Tackling Environmental Problems in Taiwan. Yttrium Sua. Pomona College.
[click to view]

(1) Fan, Mei-Fang (范玫芳) 2006. Environmental Justice and Nuclear Waste Conflicts in Taiwan. Environmental Politics 15(3): 417- 434.

(2) Huang, Peter I-min. "Rediscovering Local Environmentalism in Taiwan."CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture (2014):
[click to view]

(3) Orchid Island: Taiwan's Nuclear Dumpsite

Nuclear Monitor Issue: #387-388

Special: Environmental Racism and Nuclear Development


Off the coast of the southeast Taiwan lie two small islands which, although geographically and historically quite different, share one distinction. They are both places where Taiwan sends its undesirables. One of them, Green Island, is famous for its high security prison. The other, Orchid Island, is where Taiwan dumps its mid- and low-level nuclear waste.

An example of Environmental Colonialism

Duncan R. Marsh

Edgar (Jun-Yi) Lin

Pi-yao Lin
[click to view]

(4) Orchid Island's Nuclear Fate (The Diplomat). For decades Taiwan has stored its nuclear waste on Orchid Island, home of the Tao. By Howard Hsu. October 07, 2016
[click to view]

Good report. A long-running dispute over nuclear waste pits the Taiwanese government against the neglected indigenous people of Orchid Island. Story by James Louie.
[click to view]

(5) Taipei Times, 2 August 2017. Lanyu residents demand removal of nuclear waste. By Chang Tsun-wei and William Hetherington
[click to view]

Excellent report by Cultural Survival, A Minority within a Minority: Cultural Survival on Taiwan's Orchid Island. June 2002
[click to view]

45 years ago: Investigation: Lanyu chosen as temporary nuclear waste storage site. The results of a survey found that the best sea dumping location was only 120 nautical miles from the Philippines.

By George Liao,Taiwan News, Staff Writer, 2016/11/13
[click to view]

President to Visit Orchid Island Tomorrow: Nuclear Waste Issue and Transitional Justice. Taiwan English News. August 14, 2016 Phillip Charlier
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3593
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