First phase of Korean waste facility opens

12 December 2014

The South Korean nuclear regulator has given approval for full operation to begin at the first phase of the country's low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste (LLW/ILW) disposal facility.

Korean LLW-ILW disposal facility 460 (KORAD)
An access tunnel to the underground silos (Image: KORAD)

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) announced on 11 December that it had completed safety inspections of the LLW/ILW repository at Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang province. It said that the Korea Radioactive Waste Agency (KORAD) can now start full operation of the facility.

Construction of the 1.56 trillion won ($1.5 billion) facility was completed in June, having started in early 2006. The first phase of the repository consists of six underground silos, each with a diameter of some 24 metres and located deeper than 80 metres below sea-level. This first phase can hold up to 100,000 barrels of radioactive waste.

The building of a second phase of the repository, which will be above ground, began in January 2012 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. This will add capacity to store a further 125,000 drums of LLW/ILW. Ultimately, the facility will be used to dispose of a total of 800,000 barrels of waste.

"The NSSC will regularly conduct inspections to monitor whether the nuclear waste facility is safely managed," the regulator said.

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

South Korea currently has 23 nuclear power reactors in commercial operation with a combined generating capacity of 20,656 MWe. Nuclear accounts for about one-third of the country's electricity production.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News