South Korea may be forced to abandon nuclear power due to spent fuel issue

South Korea is under pressure to find storage space for its spent nuclear fuel, as temporary storage capacity is expected to be full by 2016 according to an independent body that advises the Korean government.

The Public Engagement Commission grouping 13 nuclear experts, professors, city council members and an official from a private environmental watchdog was formally set up in October 2013 to take account of public opinion on spent nuclear fuel issues and feed into policy decisions.
South Korean nuclear plant
The Commission Chairman Hong Doo-seung told Reuters in an interview it was now urgent to find more storage sites for spent fuel.

"We will have to stop nuclear power generation if we fail to find additional temporary space, which would be the second-best option," Hong said.

South Korea needs to quickly find additional space where it can store its spent nuclear fuel because some of its temporary storage capacity will be full by 2016, on nuclear issues said on Monday.

The country has 23 nuclear reactors supplying about a third of its power. Seoul has been under pressure to cut its reliance on nuclear power since late 2012 when safety scandals led to the temporary shutdown of reactors to replace parts supplied with fake certificates.

At the end of last year, 13,254 tonnes of spent fuel was being held in temporary storage. Nuclear plants in the Kori area of Busan city, just over 300 km southeast of Seoul, are forecast to start running out of storage space from 2016. The country's reactors produce around 750 tonnes of spent fuel each year.

A permanent disposal site for low- to medium-level radioactive waste was completed in the city of Gyeongju, 250 km southeast of Seoul, in June. However, the government has delayed its start-up for six months pending approval by a nuclear watchdog.

Hong's commission is due to produce a report on management options for spent nuclear fuel by the end of this year.

In January, South Korea formally adopted a lower target for the proportion of power to be supplied by nuclear plants, but it still plans to double its nuclear capacity over the next two decades.

President Park Geun-hye last week called for the creation of a nuclear safety consultative group in Northeast Asia, given the high number of nuclear power plants in the region and public concerns over safety.

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