1 May 2011

South Korea in focus: The politics of spent fuel storage and disposal

Jungmin Kang

Jungmin Kang is a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in Washington, DC.

In 2010, South Korea’s nuclear power reactors generated 31.4 percent of the country’s total electricity—by 2030 the government plans to have 19 more reactors online, increasing even more the country’s total nuclear generating capacity. But with this increased capacity comes increased spent nuclear fuel. The author writes that as the existing reactor-based storage pools fill up, spent fuel management is becoming a hot political issue. South Korea’s nuclear utility reports that over the next 10 years, the country will face a crisis in terms of on-site storage at all four of its nuclear power plant sites. As revealed in the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plants in March 2011, the vulnerability of spent-fuel storage pools is a matter of serious concern. The author explores ways in which South Korea can move forward.