Nuclear decommissioning research supported

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Nuclear decommissioning research supported

As part of broader efforts to prepare for aging nuclear reactors, Korea decided to establish nuclear decommissioning research institutes in three locations in the country’s southeast.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Monday that Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), a subsidiary of Korea Electric Power (Kepco), and the regional governments of Busan, Ulsan and North Gyeongsang signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at the Kori nuclear complex in Busan on Monday to establish the research institutes by the second half of 2021.

The four parties will cooperate on the establishment and operations of the facilities.

Research institutes in Busan and Ulsan will focus on light-water reactors, while the one in Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang will specialize in heavy-water reactors.

The Trade Ministry said the institutes will develop technology and equipment needed for the safe dismantling of the currently shutdown Kori 1 plant.

As of last year, 45 of 58 technologies needed for nuclear decommissioning were homegrown.

Nuclear decommissioning surfaced as a key issue in Korea after the government decided to permanently shut down Kori 1, the country’s oldest nuclear reactor, in June 2017. The plant started operation in 1978.

The shutdown has been followed by the administration’s drive to bolster renewable energy sources and reduce reliance on nuclear energy.

The government is also planning to develop the nuclear decommissioning industry as numerous nuclear reactors around the world are set to be phased out.

“Through the decommissioning of the Kori 1, there is a need to lead the market, which could serve as future business for the nuclear industry,” said Trade Minister Sung Yun-mo after the signing of the MOU.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 92 reactors globally are over 40 years old. The International Energy Agency says the global average annual cost for nuclear decommissioning is at $4 billion.

The Korean government said it will invest in nuclear decommissioning equipment and research and development through 2022.

Korea currently operates 24 nuclear reactors.

As of 2018, nuclear energy accounted for 23.4 percent of total energy generated in the country.

Amid a government push to decrease nuclear energy use, the overall operation rate for the plants has fallen to 66.5 percent last year from 79.9 percent in 2016.

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