Korean repository officially opens

01 September 2015

A ceremony was held on 28 August to mark the official opening of South Korea's underground low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste (LLW/ILW) disposal facility at Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang province.

Gyeongju repository opening ceremony - 460 (KORAD)
The invited dignitaries open the Gyeongju facility (Image: KORAD)

The ceremony was attended by South Korean prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, Gyeongsang governor Kim Kwna-yong and the mayor of Gyeongju, Choi Yang-sik, as well as 1000 local residents.

The site selection process for the 1.56 trillion won ($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 repository started in early 2006 and was completed in June 2014. The first phase of the repository 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 South Korean nuclear regulator - the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission - gave approval last December 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 on 13 July.

Gyeongju repository opening - 460 (KORAD)
Following the opening ceremony, the dignitaries were given a tour of the repository
(Image: KORAD)

The building of a second phase of the repository, which will be near-surface, began in January 2012 and is expected to be completed by 2019. 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.

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.

Korea Radioactive Waste Agency (KORAD) president and CEO Lee Jong-in said, "The LLW/ILW disposal facility in Gyeongju has been recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a safe facility." He added, "KORAD has launched real-time radiation readings in order for Korean citizens to check the safety of the facility."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News