South Korea will soon begin preparation for permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel, the government said Monday, a move that will include what will likely be an arduous process of selecting where the highly radioactive materials will be buried.
The move comes as the Public Engagement Commission on Spent Nuclear Fuel Management submitted its official and final recommendations on how to manage the country's spent nuclear fuel that included building an underground research facility by 2030.
The recommendations came after a series of public debates, including international seminars and town hall meetings, hosted by PECOS since October 2013.
In its final report submitted to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Monday, PECOS recommended the government begin permanent disposal or deep underground burial of spent nuclear fuel in 2050.
To this end, the commission advised the government to pick the site for an underground laboratory and interim storage facilities before the end of 2020 while also recommending that related research for permanent and underground disposal of spent nuclear fuel begin in 2030.
Hong Doo-seung, head of the public debate commission, earlier said the commission's recommendation was to build an underground laboratory at or around the same place for permanent disposal, meaning the country could pick the site for permanent disposal by 2020.
Minister Yoon Sang-jick said he will do his utmost to set up and implement a basic plan for disposal of spent nuclear fuel "based on the recommendations from PECOS," according to his ministry.
The country currently operates 23 nuclear reactors that generate about 30 percent of its overall electricity supply.
Each year, the nuclear reactors also create about 750 tons of spent nuclear fuel, most of which are temporarily stored in water pools at nuclear power plants.
Some of the water pools are expected to reach their maximum capacity as early as next year, though the government notes the date can and will be extended by new nuclear power plants already under construction.
Currently, 11 nuclear reactors are either under construction or will be son in the near future while the country's latest biennial power supply plan has proposed building an additional two nuclear reactors by 2030, which will bring the total number of nuclear reactors here to 36 by that year. (Yonhap)