Yang Ming ships nuclear fuel rods under heavy security

Yang Ming is providing the containers for nuclear fuel rods being shipped to the United States. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch
Yang Ming is providing the containers for nuclear fuel rods being shipped to the United States. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch

At least 200 police officers were on hand as 240 nuclear fuel rods left a defunct nuclear generation facility in containers belonging to Yang Ming Marine Transport on 5 September.

The midnight operation saw the movement of the second batch of fuel rods from Taipower’s fourth nuclear plant in Taiwan’s Gongliao district in New Taipei. The containers, which were trucked in a 12-vehicle convoy, were loaded on to a ship moored in Keelung port.

The first batch, comprising 80 fuel rods, was shipped on 4 July and trucked to Keelung in an eight-vehicle convoy.

Concerns about potential radioactive leakage during transportation were so great that hazard warning labels were pasted on the fuel rod containers.

Some of the police officers were noted to be wearing radiation-proof vests.

In all, 1,744 fuel rods will be returned to the original supplier in the United States, as Taipower has decided to close its fourth plant for good. Taipower estimates that 88 containers will be needed to fulfil the full shipment.

Taipower, a state-backed utility group, declined to identify its US supplier, citing a non-disclosure agreement.

The plant, also known as Lungmen Nuclear Power Plant, was never fully built, even though a site was earmarked and a proposal submitted decades ago, in 1978.

Several obstacles arose after construction of the site began in 1999, including a serious earthquake that year and the discovery of aboriginal artefacts in 2010.

Most damaging to the project was social opposition to nuclear power after the Fukushima crisis, following the Great East Japan earthquake in March 2011.

Environmentalists demanded that the Lungmen plant be scrapped and, in 2014, Taipower mothballed the project.