A ground-breaking ceremony took place on 26 August for the second stage of Korea’s nuclear waste disposal facility at Corradium in the Korea Atomic Energy Environment Corporation’s publicity centre.

The Phase 2 surface disposal facility, follows the Phase 1 underground disposal facility, which was completed in 2014. It will be the first low-level waste (LLW) disposal facility in Korea to be built in Munmudaewang-myeon, Gyeongju-si, and will store 125,000 drums (200 litres per drum) above the ground. The underground facility stores and manages waste in a vertical cave 130 metres below the surface, and can accommodate 100,000 drums of intermediate level waste (ILW).  

The event was attended by Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Lee Chang-yang, Korea Atomic Energy Environment Corporation Chairman Cha Seong-su, Gyeongbuk Province Economic Deputy Governor Lee Dal-hee, Gyeongju Mayor Joo Nak-young, Gyeongju City Council Chairman Lee Cheol-woo, representatives of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, and representatives of local residents.

The KRW1,560 billion ($1.5bn) site selection process for the disposal facility began in 1986 and construction of Phase 1 began in 2006. Phase 1 comprises six underground silos (40 metres high and with a 24-metre diameter). The container holding 16 drums of waste was put into one of the silos in 2015.

That same year, Korea Radioactive Waste Agency (Korad) applied in 2015 for a construction permit for Phase 2 and its construction was approved by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (Motie) in July 2016. However, following the Gyeongju earthquake in 2016, the design was amended strengthening its seismic performance with a five-layer multi-blocking structure that can withstand a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. It received a construction permission from the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission in July. The project, covering an area of some 120,000 square metres, is scheduled for completion 2024 at an estimated cost of KRW262.1 billion.

In his congratulatory speech at the ground-breaking ceremony, Minister Lee emphasised that, like the construction and operation of underground facility, the second-stage surface disposal facility will be built with “public safety” as the top priority. 

Later on 26 August during a visit to the Wolsong Nuclear Power Plant, where he checked the high-level radioactive waste dry storage facility (Maxtor) he said he intended to construct more waste facilities in Korea. As dry storage facilities are being operated using technology that has already been verified in most countries, he explained that he plans to expand facilities within the Wolsong plant site, while actively communicating with local residents about safety.

“Based on the public consensus, we will secure medium- and low-level waste disposal facilities with a scale of 800,000 drums in the future,” he said. “Putting safety first, we will do our best to prepare a special law for high-level waste management, which is a legal and institutional infrastructure, and to secure related technologies”, he added.

Image: Attendees of the ground-breaking ceremony for the second stage of South Korea’s nuclear waste disposal facility at Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang province included Lee Chang-yang, Minister of Trade, Industry & Energy (courtesy of MOTIE)