opinionBy Abdullahi U. Maiyaki
This is the fifth instalment of this piece. The fourth part was published last Friday.
Areas of Possible Contention
(i) Reprocessing is speculated to be the main issue of contention, but recent reports suggests that a Korean enrichment plant is said to be under the supervision of international networks, with reprocessing being done in a third country such as Japan. These are said to be some of the issues of contention between the United States and North Korea which constrain their nuclear activities;
(ii) However, the Korean Electricity Power Company, KEPCO, with the Korean Hydro and Nuclear Power, KHNP, and Korean Nuclear Fuel Company, KNFC, among other parastatals, are reported to be involved in uranium exploration in Canada. It is equally said that uranium for fuel comes into South Korea from Kazakhstan, Australia, Niger, etc. with an estimated 4500 requirement for 2011 and 8900 said to be anticipated demand by 2020. Similarly, in December 2009 KEPCO was said to have agreed to take a 20 per cent interest in the Imouraren operating company in Niger, along with 10 per cent of the product-expected to be 500 +u/yr over 35 years respectively;
(iii) Reprocessing, either domestic or overseas is said not to be possible under the constraints imposed by South Korean's nuclear cooperation agreement of 1974 with the United States of America which expires in March 2014. However, this contentious issue is said to be undergoing renegotiation. Moreso, the Korean Hydro-Nuclear Power, KHNP, agency is reported to have considered offshore reprocessing which is equally reported to be too expensive, largely due to transportation costs;
(iv) The Korea Radioactive Waste Management Co Ltd, KRWM, was established in year 2009 as an umbrella organization to resolve South Korea's waste management issues by implication, waste disposition, to which until then, radioactive waste management has been carried out by the KHNP. However, long-term, deep geological disposal system is said to be envisaged, as to whether that shall used fuel as such or simply separated high-level wastes depends on national policy;
Intermediate level wastes
(v) Similarly, low and intermediate-level wastes, LILW, are said to be stored at each site, the total estimated ha at about 60,000 drums of 200 litres. Volume reduction (drying, compaction) is undertaken at each site. A 200 ha central disposal repository at Gyeongju is reported to be under construction, with an estimated capacity for 800,000 drums respectively;
(vi) Another innovation by the South Korean government to ensure local community acceptance of its conceived low and inter-mediate level wastes, LILW, policy was the setting aside of an LILW facility fund of 300 billion won (US$260 million) to any area selected for the project as community support in accordance to "The Act for Promoting the Radioactive Waste Management Project and Financial Support for the local Community" 2000.
The aim of this Act is said to compensate communities for the psychological burden residents may undergo, thus the initiative to reward a community participating in such an important national project, and to facilitate amicable implementation of radioactive waste management;
(vii) In November 2005, an election was reported to have been conducted to select an area for the site for the low and intermediate-level wastes, after votes in four provincial cities, Kyongju/Gyeonju on the east coast said to be 370km from Seoul the capital of South Korea, was designated as the site. Among 90 per cent of its voters are said to have approved, compared with 67 per cent to 84 per cent in the other contender locations;
(viii) In June 2006, the government is reported to have announced that the Gyeongju LILW reposing would have a number of silos and caverns some 80m below the surface, initially with capacity for 100,000 drums and costing US$730 million. Construction is said to have started in April 2008. However, further 700,000 drum capacity facility is expected later, at an estimated cost of US$1.15 billion. At the same time, an initial US$260 million grant, annual fees shall be paid to the local site community respectively;
(ix) In December 2010 the Korea Radioactive Waste Management Co Ltd, KRWM, is reported to have commenced operation of the Gyeogju facility, by accepting the first 1000 drums of wastes there from the Urchin plant, which is expected to be held in the outdoor storage until the underground repository itself is commissioned in 2012. About nine of such shipments are expected annually. The site said to covers 2.1sq km;
(x) On issues of regulation and safety mechanisms, South Korea's Atomic Energy Act shouldered such task on the nation's Atomic Energy Commission, AEC, being the highest decision-making body on matters of nuclear energy policy and is said to be chaired by the country's Prime Minister, while the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, MRST, is said to have the overall responsibility to oversee nuclear radioactive and development; nuclear safety and nuclear safeguards respectively. Similarly, the high-level Nuclear Safety Commission, NSC, Chaired by the Minister of Education Science and Technology was responsible for nuclear safety regulation until 2011. It was said to be independent of the Atomic Energy Commission, AEC, and was set up by amendment of the Atomic Energy Act of 1996. The regulation framework is said to be modeled on the United States Nuclear Regulation Cooperation, NRC.
(xi) Furthermore, the South Korean government is said to have launched the new Nuclear Safety and Security Company, NSSC, in October 2011. It is said to be the new independent regulator, reporting directly to the President, and its chairman has ministerial rank.
The Korean Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS), formerly the expert safety regulator under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST), became a technical support organization under it, while the MEST is said to be simply promoting nuclear power generally in the country;
(xii) In addition, the new Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) scope is reported to cover licensing, inspection, enforcement, incident response and emergency response, non-proliferation and safeguards, export/import control and physical protection respectively. In 2012, the NSSC is said to have signed an agreement with its Canadian counterpart (CNSC) in order to strengthen cooperation;
(xiii) However, after the Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011, the South Korean government is said to have undertaken an immediate assessment of each site followed by a Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, MEST, special safety review of all plants (with special attention to Kori-1 which has net capacity of 576MW electricity commissioned in 1978 to close in 2017.
(xiv) A number of measures were reported to have been initiated which included:
•The raising up of the coastal barrier at Kori-1 to 10m;
•Watertight doors were said to have been fitted to emergency diesel generator buildings;
•Batter power supplies were secured from any possibility of flooding;
•A vehicle with portable diesel generator was reported to have been situated at each site;
•Pumps were waterproofed;
•Passive hydrogen removal systems not dependent in electricity were said to have been equally installed;
•Exhaust and decompression equipment was improved;
• The seismic performance of automatic shutdown and cooling systems were improved;
•All these are reported to represents an investment of about US$1 billion over five years respectively.
Some issues of Strategic Nuclear Concerns over Threat to Peace from the Korean Peninsula
Basically, the foregoing analysis presented areas of concerns and indeed contention over nuclear power development programmes between the two Korean States of North Korea and South Korea and the International Community represented by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, based in Vienna, Austria.