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(LEAD) S. Korea strives to build up nuclear decommissioning industry

All News 11:49 December 08, 2017

(ATTN: REVISES lead; UPDATES with comments in seventh para; ADDS photo)
By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will ramp up efforts to develop technologies related to nuclear decommissioning as the country's oldest reactor is undergoing the lengthy, costly process of being dismantled, the energy ministry said Friday.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy launched a consultative body composed of state-run utilities, construction companies and research institutes to put concerted efforts toward developing the nation's nuclear decommissioning industry,

The ministry said it aims to develop technologies needed to dismantle nuclear reactors by 2021 that will make such sites free of radioactive hazards and establish a research institute to pave the way for entering the global market by 2030.

Nuclear spent fuel from the Kori-1 reactor in the southeastern port city of Busan is stored in a water pool in this photo taken on Oct. 20, 2017. (Yonhap)

South Korea has 17 key technologies for nuclear decommissioning, while it hasn't acquired 21 technologies related to decommissioning preparation, decontamination, dismantling, waste disposal and environmental recovery.

The tough task is gaining importance as the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) is preparing steps to decommission the Kori-1 unit, which was shut down in June following 40 years of commercial use.

It is one of 24 nuclear power plants in Asia's fourth-largest economy, which are responsible for about 30 percent of the nation's total electric energy generation.

"By taking steps to dismantle the Kori-1 reactor, South Korea will have to upgrade the decommissioning industry's capacity ranging from business management, technology equipment and professional staff," Park Won-ju, a ministry official in charge of the energy policy, said during the meeting with industry officials.

A total of 11 reactors will be retired one by one by 2030 as their operational life cycles expire as the government said it won't extend their operation.

As part of the nuclear phase-out plan, the government is also pushing for an early closure of Wolsong-1, now the nation's oldest operating reactor, as soon as possible.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 34 nations have built 611 reactors and 449 were in operation as of April 2017. Among 160 reactors permanently shut down, the decommissioning process has been completed for 19.


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