Nuclear waste management legislation needed

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Nuclear waste management legislation needed

Korea is a country with big energy consumption that imports most of its energy. 30 percent of the electricity consumed in Korea is supplied by nuclear power generation, and therefore, the waste treatment and management is a task that we must resolve. As the nation enjoys the benefits of electricity industry, we cannot deny that high level nuclear waste management is also our responsibility. We need to find a solution for safe management, responsibility and rights and balance in benefits and burdens.

The government made an administrative pre-announcement on the high-level nuclear waste management basic plan on May 25. Finally, a police guideline to safely manage the high level nuclear waste is set up after 38 years of nuclear power generation and 11 years since the mid and high level nuclear waste treatment site was selected. As we haven’t had much experiences of social consensus on this issue and experienced nine failures, it is historically meaningful that timeline has been explicitly proposed.

Most of all, it is fortunate that the points that committee on the used nuclear fuel recommended to the government in late June by aggregating public opinions for 20 months are largely reflected in the guideline. Having served as the chairman of the committee, this is very significant. It is a great triumph that 37,000 citizens participated in online and offline discussions on the used nuclear fuel management.

The basic plan is a roadmap that defines procedures and methods for safety of everyone, designating underground research facilities, intermediary storage facilities and permanent disposal facilities. It also sets timelines and plans by stage, allowing 12 years on site selection, including conducting geological survey and gathering opinions of local residents, 7 years for construction of intermediary storage facilities and 25 years for construction of permanent disposal facilities. Also, Korea will continue the efforts to secure international joint storage and disposal facilities and pursue recycling technology development allowed in the Korea-US Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. It is noteworthy that the guideline responds to changing conditions with a range of choices according to the progress in international cooperation and technology development.

Despite a series of trial and error since the policy was first drafted in 1983, high level nuclear waste management is a process of comprehensive public discussion. The basic plan should be understood as an extension of frustration and endeavor of past administrations. Past failures and controversies have allowed us to draft the current plan. It took more than a generation to come this far. We cannot delay any longer because of inconvenience.

Once the basic plan is confirmed at the Nuclear Power Promotion Committee presided by the Prime Minister, the 20th National Assembly needs to legislate related procedural laws to execute the plan. Just as the 18th National Assembly prepared the legal grounds for public discussion through an agreement between ruling and opposition parties, the lawmakers should work together to come up with legislations on high level nuclear waste management. We don’t have time to waste.
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