Construction of New Nuclear Waste Storage Facilities Still Up in the Air

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Spent nuclear fuel storage facilities are about to reach saturation.

The Presidential Transition Committee is aiming to increase the ratio of nuclear power plants in operation from the current level of 70 percent or so. However, this plan is likely to face a lot of challenges in that spent nuclear fuel storage facilities are about to reach saturation and the preparation of new storage sites is showing no progress at all.

According to the Korean Radioactive Waste Society, the remaining capacity of the temporary storage facility in the Hanbit Nuclear Power Plant was about 25 percent at the end of last year, that in Kori is likely to be saturated in 2031, and the estimated year is 2032 and 2044 for Hanul and Shinwolseong, respectively.

In the meantime, the new South Korean government is expected to raise the ratio to at least 80 percent in order to slow down a rise in electricity price. This is one of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s campaign pledges, which also include an extended operation of some nuclear power plants previously scheduled to be retired.

Experts point out that nuclear waste treatment needs to be considered first. The South Korean government formed a committee in October 2013 in order to handle the issue and the committee came up with a plan in July 2016. However, the Moon Jae-in administration rejected the plan, saying that the public opinion was not reflected enough.

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