SEOUL -- The construction of South Korea's first research institute on the dismantlement of nuclear power plants began amid concerns over radioactive waste in decommissioning old reactors. South Korea has 24 reactors in operation, which meet one-third of the country's power needs. An aging reactor in the Gori nuclear power complex near the southeastern port of Busan is to be permanently shut down in 2017.
For decades, South Korea, which has almost no reserves of fossil fuels on its territory, has pushed for a nuclear energy program. Radioactive waste generated in the process of dismantling nuclear power plants requires a high cost of disposal. South Korea has no experience in dismantling nuclear power plants.
In Ulju, a county about 280 kilometers (174 miles) southeast of Seoul, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy held a ceremony on October 31 to break ground for a state research institute that would focus on securing core technologies on dismantling decommissioned nuclear power plants with an injection of 313 billion won ($220 million). Construction will be completed in the second half of 2026.
Recognizing the importance of dismantling nuclear power plants and handling radioactive waste safely and economically, the ministry said that the research institute would demonstrate and develop technologies to safely dismantle permanently suspended nuclear power plants and function as a comprehensive platform to support South Korea's nuclear dismantling industry.
"We hope that this research institute will be the centerpiece of securing safe dismantling technology for nuclear power plants," Energy Industry Deputy Minister Cheon Young-gil said in a statement. "We will do our best to secure work related to the dismantling of nuclear power plants and develop technologies."
Most radioactive materials are adsorbed on fine soil in the form of small particles on a large surface area. The key is to effectively remove adsorbed pollutants by precisely selecting and cleaning soil particles. In March 2022, Hyundai Engineering & Construction joined hands with its American partner, Holtec International, to participate in the decommissioning of defunct nuclear power plants, starting with the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan in Westchester County.
Holtec's decommissioning plans for Indian Point include moving used nuclear fuel from pools into a dry storage system, and dismantling and packaging highly activated parts from the nuclear reactors in high-capacity containers. With a teaming agreement with Holtec, Hyundai E&C would accumulate technologies.
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