[VIEWPOINT]The Wido project is unnecessary

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[VIEWPOINT]The Wido project is unnecessary

Having served as a member of the National Assembly, I worry about the crisis in Buan over the proposed construction of a nuclear waste disposal facility. When I was a member of the Assembly’s Science, Technology, Information and Telecommunications Committee, I persistently questioned the necessity for such a plant. In short, we do not actually need to build a separate facility to store nuclear waste, such as the controversial Wido project.
First of all, over 95 percent of the space would be used to store low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. Nuclear power plants have been storing low-level nuclear waste in on-site facilities for decades, and there haven’t been any accidents from storage of the waste. If we reinforce and expand the existing facilities at each plant, that would take care of the waste for a few more decades.
Waste treatment technology improves quickly. If we use the plasma waste converter, we can compress one drum of waste into a small vial. The technology is already used in some developed countries, and we can immediately import it or develop it ourselves. Given the anticipated advances in the field, in one or two decades a system that will permit the complete treatment of nuclear waste will be produced.
Second, high-level nuclear waste does not take up much space. Supporters of a treatment facility claim that the storage capacity at each nuclear power plant will run out in the near future. But anyone who has ever visited a nuclear power plant would find this argument unconvincing.
For safety reasons, nuclear power plants are built on vast sites in remote locations away from human populations. Thus, the plants can afford to double or triple their existing storage facilities for high-level nuclear waste without causing a problem.
Third, we need to reconsider our fundamental policy on dealing with radioactive wastes. With the aforementioned plans, we can safely treat nuclear waste for at least another century. Now is the time to come up with a new long-term plan. Building an international joint nuclear waste treatment facility could be an option. We should promote nuclear waste treatment as an international cooperation project that will provide mutual benefits.
We could begin the project with Russia by building a commercial international nuclear waste treatment plant in Siberia or another deserted area. The Russian Duma has already approved a bill to create a special committee to oversee imported nuclear waste. It is thus legal to bring foreign nuclear waste into Russia, and a construction plan is already being discussed in detail.
I formally suggest the following: Augment the storage capacity at each nuclear plant. Develop or import the plasma converter system. Expand the high-level waste storage capacity of each plant enough for another 100 years of operation. Promote international nuclear waste treatment projects with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

* The writer is a former Millennium Democratic Party assemblyman. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kwack Chi-young
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