IAEA reviews planned South Korean waste site

24 October 2007

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is conducting an on-site peer review of South Korea's planned low- and intermediate-level waste (LLW/ILW) repository.


In November 2005, after some 20 years of effort to find a suitable site, South Korea selected Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang province as the final candidate for siting the LLW/ILW repository. On 15 January 2007, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), which is responsible for the development of the repository, submitted an application to the Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST) for a licence to construct and operate the facility. MOST has subsequently requested a safety review by the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS) of the application.


MOST requested that the IAEA conduct an international peer review on the safety of the planned repository and to advise it accordingly. The ministry considers an IAEA review as very important in improving the public confidence and acceptability for the LLW/ILW disposal site. The IAEA site visit was scheduled to begin on 20 October and was expected to last seven days.


The main objective of the IAEA visit is to review the licence application programme and activities performed by KHNP for the waste disposal site based on international safety standards and internationally accepted practices relevant to LLW/ILW disposal. The peer review will be a consensus review conducted by a four-person international team of experts selected by the IAEA Secretariat.


The design concept adopted for the Korean LLW/ILW disposal facility is one based on underground silos located deeper than 80 metres below sea-level. The design concept largely precludes human intrusion as a safety issue and the safety case and supporting safety assessment gives prominence to evaluating the possible migration of radionuclides by waterborne pathways. As such, the suitability of hydrogeological modelling of the site and related items described in the safety analysis report is of high importance and will be the main focus of the IAEA peer review.


The expert team selected by the IAEA, following an examination of all related data on the site and how the facility will be constructed, will prepare an International Peer Review Report that documents its proceeding, observations, findings, and recommendations. The draft Peer Review Report will be delivered to KINS for fact-checking prior to finalizations. The final Peer Review Report is scheduled to be completed in mid-November.


Construction of the first phase of the repository, which will hold 100,000 drums of waste, is expected to be completed by the end of 2009, after which plans to build additional holding facilities for a further 700,000 drums of waste will be considered. A temporary holding facility will also be built on the surface. Gyeongju received a special state subsidy of 300 billion won ($326 million) for hosting the facility. In addition, the government has pledged to construct a sub-atomic particle accelerator in the region. Also, the headquarters of state-run KHNP will be moved to Gyeongju.


Further information


International Atomic Energy Agency
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power
Ministry of Science & Technology


WNA's Nuclear Power in Korea information paper
 Waste Management in the Nuclear Fuel Cycle information paper