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The legislation on handling high-level radioactive waste, pending at the National Assembly, is unlikely to make any progress within this year despite the matter’s urgency, after a scheduled review by lawmakers was canceled.
According to sources within the National Assembly and the industry, the Industry, Trade, and Energy subcommittee meeting, which was supposed to review the bill on Wednesday, was abruptly canceled with an unnamed official from the National Assembly stated that the cancelation was due to opposition from the Democratic Party.
Members of both the ruling and opposition parties had scheduled the 11th review of the nuclear disposal law to iron out the contentious issues related to the enactment. However, following the unilateral withdrawal of the opposition party, the chances of the special law passing within the year are now slim.
There is a small window to resume the discussion after the October audit, but scheduling a review meeting may not be feasible because lawmakers‘ attention will have shifted towards the upcoming national election by then.
“Based on the typical National Assembly schedule, November is a reasonable assumption for the review, if possible, with October being an unlikely option,” according to an official from the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Energy. “Even if the bill passes the subcommittee review, it will take until next year to pass through the standing committee and all the necessary steps for enactment,” the official added. This means the nuclear waste disposal law is likely to be passed onto the next National Assembly.
The two major contentious issues between the ruling and opposition parties are the explicit stipulation of the timing for the construction of interim storage facilities and the capacity of dry storage facilities within nuclear power plant sites.
The urgent need for the construction of a permanent disposal facility for nuclear waste is evident in Korea, as the amount of used nuclear fuel generated in domestic nuclear power plants is rapidly increasing, with the accumulated nuclear waste hitting 18,600 tons since the country’s first nuclear power plant began operating in 1978. It is expected that storage facilities for used nuclear fuel, including a repository, will become saturated sequentially, starting with the Hanbit Nuclear Power Plant in 2030.
By Park Dong-hwan and Chang Iou-chung
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