BUSINESS

Korea releases 1st roadmap to build facility for spent nuclear fuel

By Seo Jee-yeon
  • Published : May 25, 2016 - 15:53
  • Updated : May 25, 2016 - 15:53
Korea will select a site for an underground storage facility to permanently dispose spent nuclear fuel, or high-level radioactive waste, by 2028 and complete the construction of the facility by 2053, according to the first roadmap for the project released by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Wednesday.

“A further delay in building the facility will put a drag on future generations, considering the saturation level of interim storage units located in the nuclear power complexes nationwide, ’’ Chae Hee-bong, the ministry’s energy policy director, said in a press briefing, held at the central government complex in Sejong.

Trade Ministry (Yonhap)

According to data from the Energy Ministry, the first saturation of the storage unit for spent nuclear fuel will occur at the Wolsong nuclear power plant, located in, Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, in 2019.

Korea has 24 nuclear plants and they produce more than 700 tons of spent nuclear fuel annually.

The world’s sixth largest nuclear power generating country has lagged behind other nations in radioactive waste management.

The country has no choice but to build a storage facility to dispose the spent nuclear fuel as it is strictly banned from reprocessing it under a 1973 treaty with the United States, even though this is one of the most effective ways to reduce the volume and toxic levels of radioactive waste.

The government completed the construction of its first low-level and intermediate radioactive waste disposal repository last year in Gyeongju. However, it has yet to start the process of building a storage facility for high-level radioactive waste mainly because of repeated public resistance.

Against this backdrop, the ministry stressed the importance of a site selection for the entire project.

“Benchmarking the Gyeongju case, it is estimated to take 12 years to select the final location,’’ Chae said, stressing that the success of the project will depend on public acceptance.

To minimize public resistance in the course of a site selection, the ministry will adopt an open competition among geologically qualified sites.

It will launch an independent committee to lead the site selection next year, following an approval by the National Assembly on the roadmap in the latter part of this year. The roadmap will be updated in five years embracing changing external conditions, the ministry added.

By Seo Jee-yeon (jyseo@heraldcorp.com)