The Korea Herald


KEPCO denies rumors of importing UAE nuke waste

By 고영아

Published : March 20, 2011 - 18:46

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Utility firm seeks court order banning magazine report on possible import of fuel

The state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. said on Saturday that it has filed for injunction in a Seoul court calling for the banning of the distribution of the monthly Shindonga magazine.

They argue that its news report that Korea may be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste from the planned nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates is groundless.

KEPCO also requested a correction to the report and filed a claim for 1 billion won ($900,000) in compensation from the magazine to the Press Arbitration Commission.

“The strong counteraction came as such a report could cause critical damage to the credibility and reputation of our organization, which is pushing nuclear facility exports as a key growth driver in the future,” a KEPCO official said.

The controversy began with Shindonga’s report that Korea would be responsible for the disposal of used nuclear fuel from the proposed UAE nuclear reactors, which is expected to cost the country a great deal of money.

Korea inked a landmark $20 billion deal with the UAE in December 2009 to build four nuclear reactors in Braka, 300 kilometers west of Abu Dhabi, by 2020.

President Lee Myung-bak visited the country last week and attended the groundbreaking ceremony, during which he also signed a landmark oil development deal in Abu Dhabi.

The magazine cited an excerpt from a document which it claimed was written by the state-owned Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., stating:“The UAE would also prefer using foreign suppliers’ services, if offered, to reduce the volume of spent fuel to reduce permanent storage requirements. These services would be obtained under the condition that all reprocessing takes place outside the UAE. Reprocessing will not be considered by the UAE in any nuclear energy program.”

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy and KEPCO promptly hit back, saying that the report is totally groundless as the contract clearly mentions that “the ordering body (ENEC) will take all responsibilities regarding the disposal of used nuclear fuels.”

Yet, according to reports in the Arab state released last month, ENEC is considering short-, medium- and long-term solutions to the discarding of used fuel, including “fuel leasing” as part of a planned nuclear energy project, though it has not finalized the option.

The firm said it is looking at diverse options, including storing spent fuel above ground and within the plant in the short-term of 20-30 years, and in dry concrete casks above ground in the mid-term of 70-100 years.

For the longer term of beyond 100 years, the UAE is thinking of establishing an underground depository or fuel leasing, it added.

Industry experts have recently been forecasting a not-so-bright future for Korea’s nuclear facility exports.

Though the country’s first-ever nuclear plant export initiated upbeat speculation about the nation becoming a major player in the global nuclear energy market, it has been encountering major obstacles since the UAE deal.

The country failed to bag bids in Vietnam and Turkey last year, and has been faced with other controversies related to the UAE deal ― its financial terms and thoroughness.

The recent disaster at the Fukushima, Japan nuclear complex will also likely pose threat to the industry, as doubts regarding the safety and stability of nuclear facilities have been raised once again around the world, particularly in Europe.

By Koh Young-aah (