Republic of Korea: experience of radioactive waste (RAW) management and contaminated site clean-up

J.-I. Y U N, Y. H. J E O N G and J. H. KIM, KAIST, Korea DOI: 10.1533/9780857097446.2.673

Abstract: Republic of Korea currently operates 21 nuclear units providing one-third of the nation’s electricity. Low and intermediate level radioactive materials emanating from these plants, medical facilities, research reactors, and industry need to be safely stored and managed. Disposal of spent nuclear fuel is also an important national issue. This chapter reviews the current state of affairs in Korea and examines the national policy, strategy, and direction for managing spent fuel and radioactive waste (RAW) materials. Decontamination of waste materials is also discussed.

Key words: Republic of Korea, radioactive waste (RAW), spent nuclear fuel (SNF) storage, disposal, decommissioning, decontamination.

21.1 Introduction

The twenty-first century’s grand challenges are aptly characterized by energy, environment, and economy — the so-called tri-lemma of sustainabil­ity. These three Es are intricately interconnected, and balancing them is necessary for a healthy society. Many of this century’s issues are global in nature, such as global warming that cuts across national boundaries and requires global cooperation in energy, environment, and economy to solve them. We are all in the same boat and must work together to meet these formidable challenges.

According to the International Energy Outlook 2011 reference scenario, the world’s energy consumption is expected to grow by 53% between 2008 and 2035. Global electricity generation will grow from 19.1 trillion kWh in 2008 to 35.2 trillion kWh in 2035, an increase of 84%. Likewise, nuclear generation is expected to increase from 2.6 trillion kWh in 2008 to 4.9 tril­lion kWh in 2035. As for Korea, energy is particularly crucial for its national growth planning, as Korea has virtually no natural resources.

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