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International Peer Review of South Korea’s geological disposal plans

i Apr 17th No Comments by

Opening up your plans to independent international expert review and assessment has become a cornerstone of geological disposal programmes around the world.  It provides reassurance nationally and internationally that:

  • common safety standards are being adhered to in every country;
  • the latest global scientific knowledge and understanding is being applied;
  • every national geological disposal programme is benefitting from lessons learned by other programmes.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have recently published an international peer review of South Korea’s geological disposal programme.  South Korea is still developing its policy on how to find a site, and is going through a process of public engagement and consultation to determine an appropriate consent-based approach.  No site has yet been identified in Korea.  However, the Koreans have been conducting significant research into “pyro-processing” of spent fuel.

Potentially, pyro-processing would allow more spent fuel to be recycled and re-used.  This would reduce both the volumes and the heat of the waste requiring permanent disposal in a repository (aka GDF).  The IAEA notes that the research is still ongoing, and pyro-processing is not yet commercially viable.  However, the heat and volume reductions could mean that a repository might need to be only one-tenth the size currently required.

The South Koreans asked the IAEA to convene a panel of experts to review their hypothetical plans for a repository if pyro-processed waste was the primary material being disposed of in the underground facility.  The comprehensive IAEA Expert Report is not controversial, commends the Koreans for their approach, research and plans, and suggests areas where further research and investigation would be helpful.

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