S. Korea urged to build facility for nuclear waste by 2055

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A South Korean public-debate commission on Tuesday asked the government to build a facility by 2055 to permanently dispose of spent nuclear fuel after a year- long review.

The Public Engagement Commission on Spent Nuclear Fuel Management (PECOS), which launched operations in February, reached a preliminary conclusion that a facility for the final disposal of nuclear waste should be built around 2055, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said.

The commission has conducted a public debate through various seminars and surveys over the past 10 months. It plans to extend its activity by four months until April 2015 to gather more public opinions.

Interim facilities were also required to be built to temporarily store the nuclear waste, which would be finally sent to the permanent disposal facility.

The permanent disposal means burying spent nuclear fuel about 500 meters underground to completely separate the highly radioactive material from people.

The year 2055 was targeted due to falling storage space and the time necessary for test-running the facility, Hong Doo-seung, chief of the PECOS, told a press conference, adding the construction would begin in 2045.

South Korea has been struggling to manage the spent fuel as the country is running out of storage space for the waste from its 23 light-water nuclear reactors. The space is expected to be completely full as early as 2024.

The country has been in talks with the United States for a pyro-processing system that is considered as less of a proliferation risk as it cannot extract weapons-grade plutonium while reprocessing the spent fuel.

Seoul has claimed that the recycling of spent fuel would increase the efficiency of spent-fuel disposal and reduce radiotoxic material, but Washington worried about possible nuclear arms race in the region as the reprocessing can extract plutonium for atomic bombs.

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