The passage of a special bill that provides the foundation for the establishment of storage facilities for high-level radioactive waste will allow the South Korean nuclear industry to regain sustainability, according to experts.
Representatives Lee Yin-seon and Kim Yeung-shik of the ruling People Power Party and Kim Sung-whan of the main opposition Democratic Party each introduced a special bill on managing high-level radioactive waste but the two parties have been at odds over contentious issues, such as timing and scale.
The government and ruling party insist on specifying the timing of securing both interim storage and final disposal facilities for high-level radioactive waste, while the opposition party argues that only the timing of securing a disposal facility should be specified.
Additionally, there is a divergence of opinions on the scale of storage facilities within nuclear power plant sites, with the ruling party suggesting that it should be large enough to allow for the possibility of additional operating licenses for the reactors, while the opposition asserts that it should only be large enough for the lifetime of the reactors as originally designed.
Experts suggest that the passage of the special act would serve as an opportunity to restore social trust in nuclear power.
“The construction of dry storage facilities on land equivalent to the Central Organization for Radioactive Waste (COVRA) facilities is already possible under the current law, but local acceptability is an issue,” said Yun Jong-Il, a professor of nuclear and quantum engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST). “The uncertainty that temporary storage facilities may become a permanent disposal site is a psychological barrier, and the enactment of the act could alleviate such ambiguities.”
COVRA in Borssele, the Netherlands, is the country’s sole facility responsible for the treatment and storage of nuclear waste generated from the nearby Borssele Nuclear Power Plant (KCB) for a period of 100 years.
The spent nuclear fuel, which has been burned for about four to five years, is stripped of recyclable elements such as uranium and plutonium, and the remaining residue is stored.
The waste is made into a glass-like solid to reduce volume by 20 percent and toxicity by 10 percent.
By Lee Jin-han and Yoon Yeon-hae
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