Approval for Korean repository expansion

26 July 2016

Plans to more than double the current capacity of South Korea's low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste disposal facility at Gyeongju have been approved by the government. Construction of the second phase of the facility is expected to be completed in 2019.

Gyeongju repository - Phase I and II - 460 (KORAD)
Phase I (left) and II (right) of the Gyeongju facility (Image: KORAD)

The Korea Radioactive Waste Agency (KORAD) announced today that the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has approved the construction of the second phase of the Gyeongju facility in North Gyeongsang province.

Preparatory groundwork for the expansion of the repository will begin soon, KORAD said. However, approval from the South Korean nuclear regulator - the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) - must be obtained before full-scale construction of the new facility can start.

Phase II of the facility - costing some KRW 100 million ($88,000) - will cover an area of some 120,000 square meters and will have the capacity to hold 125,000 drums of waste. Construction of the surface facility is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

The site selection process for the KRW 1.56 trillion ($1.5 billion) facility began in 1986, eight years after South Korea's first nuclear power reactor - Kori unit 1 - began operating. Construction of the first phase of the repository started in early 2006 and was completed in June 2014. That phase consists of six underground silos, each 40 metres high and with a diameter of some 24 metres. This first phase can hold up to 100,000 barrels of radioactive waste.

The NSSC gave approval in December 2014 for full operation to begin at the facility's first phase. The first waste - 16 drums of waste within a concrete disposal container - were put within one of the facility's silos last July.

Ultimately, the Gyeongju facility will be used to dispose of a total of 800,000 barrels of waste.

Low-level waste is typically composed of, for example, clothes, filters, and equipment used routinely at nuclear sites. It is usually placed in drums that are then compacted. Intermediate-level waste contains, for example, resins, chemical sludges and metal fuel claddings which have higher levels of radioactivity and require shielding.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News