Power plant shut-down technology gets boost

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Power plant shut-down technology gets boost

The government plans to spend a total of 616.3 billion won ($530.6 million) to foster the nuclear power plant dismantling industry for the next 15 years.

The project follows the government’s decision in June to permanently close the nation’s first nuclear reactor, Gori 1, for safety concerns.

The Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy confirmed Monday afternoon their joint investment plan to foster related technologies.

The government said the project will be an opportunity to explore the global nuclear reactor dismantling market, which is estimated to be about 440 trillion won, as the lifespan of nuclear reactors built in the 1960s through the 1980s across the world is coming to an end within two decades.

According to Deloitte and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute in August, the life expectancy of more than 400 of 588 nuclear power reactors across the world is expected to expire by 2020. Nearly 74 percent of the old nuclear reactors are located in Europe, North America and Japan.

The technologies involved in research will include the design of the dismantling process, salt processing to decontaminate, physical dismantlement, care of nuclear waste and the facility, and soil recovery of the site after it is dismantled.

Korea has no dismantling experience with its commercial nuclear reactors but is known to have 70 percent of the technology compared to other advanced nuclear countries.

The government hopes to foster the dismantling technologies and carry out dismantlement of the Gori 1 reactor with locally-developed technologies through the R&D project. The detailed technology road map will be developed by the end of this year.

If Gori 1 permanently stops operation next year, the reactor goes into cooling of the spent nuclear fuel for the next six years. The government aims to complete developing basic technologies by 2021.

The state-run project will develop 34 technologies by 2021, with funding worth 220 billion won from the Science Ministry and Energy Ministry.

The technologies will be transferred mostly to local, small and midsize companies in the nuclear industry, so that those companies can be trained and carry out dismantling processes in the 2030s.

Another 50 billion won will go towards developing facilities and robots that decontaminate the radiation-contaminated reactor and its parts, and 150 billion won will be spent on technology testing and building test centers.

The government and the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation will jointly work with the U.S.-based Argonne National Lab and the French Atomic Energy Commission.

BY KIM JI-YOON [kim.jiyoon@joongang.co.kr]
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