Korea emerges as a global nuclear leader

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Korea emerges as a global nuclear leader

Korea’s nuclear industry is celebrating two occasions. In April, the President and CEO of Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation Cho Seok was selected as the next chairman of World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) at the Tokyo center board meeting. He will serve the two-year term from October. Also, Korea was chosen over Pakistan to host the 2017 General Assembly.

While not many are familiar with WANO, it is the highest decision-making organization participated by private nuclear power operators and industry leaders around the world. Established in 1989, WANO is comprised of 127 operators from 35 countries, and since the Chernobyl disaster, the organization has set a goal to promote safety through information exchange among operators. WANO is not a group that represents the interests of the industry but focuses on sharing experiences and information and facilitate active communication to make policies to secure safe and reliable nuclear power operation. Safety inspection, operational technology support, information sharing and related meetings are arranged as well.

Korea’s history of nuclear energy is relatively short, but 31 percent of domestic electricity supply are generated by 24 nuclear power generators as of July, 20-14. The safety suspension per reactor is 0.22 and utility rate is 85.0 percent, showing world-class safety operational records. Following the nuclear reactor export to the United Arab Emirates in 2009, contracts for operating nuclear plants with Korean staffs are in process, and Korea’s operational skills are also recognized internationally. Korea has also gained global leadership with the sixth largest facility size.

However, there are areas that Korea’s nuclear industry needs to work on. Due to the geographical proximity from Fukushima, the public awareness on safety of nuclear energy has been greatly undermined. While Koreans recognize the need for nuclear energy, we feel reluctant to have a facility in the neighborhood. While the Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation is confident of technological safety, it is far from “safety” that people feel. With priority on safety, the corporation needs to communicate with the people to win trust.

WANO’s foremost objective is nuclear safety. The nuclear operators around the world are sharing experiences, information, and lessons to pursue the highest level of safety. As Korea’s status in the global nuclear market improves, we hope to propose and share cases for communication in addition to technological safety at the 2017 WANO General Assembly.

by Jhang Sung-ho, Professor at Konkuk University

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