South Korean regulator approves additional used fuel storage facility

14 January 2020

South Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) has approved the construction of seven additional used fuel storage structures at the Wolsong nuclear plant.

The decision follows a September statement by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) that existing storage was 93.1% full. KHNP requested additional storage facilities, noting it risked running out of space by the end of 2021, which could force it to take some reactors offline.

Originally, KHNP had asked to build 14 modular air-cooled canister storage structures at the Wolsong plant but had only seven, which have been in service since 2010.

The on-site dry storage facility at Wolsong for its four Candu pressurised heavy water reactors comprises MACSTOR/KN-400 (Modular Air-Cooled Storage 400) modules for the fuel after six years of cooling in pools. The seven modules of MACSTOR-400 have a total capacity of 168,000 bundles. KHNP applied in April 2016 to add a further seven modules.

KHNP expects construction of the seven additional MACSTOR-400 modules to take at least 19 months to complete.

As well as approving the construction of more storage facilities, NSSC said it will spend KRW33.5 billion ($28.8 million) on nuclear safety research in 2020, up 10.2% from the year before.

Only KRW4.2 billion will be used to back new projects, with the rest being spent on existing programmes centred on such areas as safeguarding nuclear facilities from natural disasters and non-proliferation activities.

The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety earlier confirmed that despite concerns raised by local environmental groups the facilities in use and those to be built will meet all regulatory requirements and pose no risk to the environment.

The Wolsong NPP houses four 700MWe Candu 6 reactors, which began commercial operation between 1983 and 1999.

KHNP announced in 2018 that Wolsong 1 will be retired prior to the expiration of its operating licence in 2022 because of the "uncertain economic viability" of its continued operation. Wolsong 1 was declared closed on 24 December.

South Korea has been gradually reducing its dependence on nuclear energy, which meets roughly 30% of its electricity needs, by switching to sources such as solar and wind power.

Photo: Wolsong nuclear power plant

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