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South Korea: nuclear phaseout much cheaper than nuclear maintenance

By Kim Sung-hwan, staff reporter New report finds that nuclear power phaseout could save nearly $17 billion in maintenance costs

The cost of managing the “spent nuclear fuel” irradiated in nuclear plants has steadily increased and now exceeds 64 trillion won (US$57.2 billion), a new report confirms. If the government implements its policy of a nuclear phaseout, it could reduce this maintenance cost by as much as 19 trillion won (US$16.9 billion), according to the report.

A report on the current maintenance cost for spent nuclear fuel that Minjoo Party lawmaker Lee Hun, a member of the National Assembly’s Industry, Trade, Resources and SME Committee, received from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on July 25 states that as of 2016 the cost needed to maintain the spent nuclear fuel for 36 nuclear reactors (including one that is permanently shuttered, 24 that are operational, five that are under construction and six whose construction is planned) is 64.13 trillion won. “The Radioactive Waste Maintenance Cost Calculation Committee, which determines the cost of spent nuclear fuel, calculated that the project cost as of 2016 was 64.13 trillion won, but the government has been publishing the project cost calculated in 2015 [of 53.28 trillion won],” Lee said.

“Since we were unable to submit a motion for approval of the project cost to the cost management review board at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, we included the previous year’s project cost in the basic plan for managing high-level radioactive waste, which was released in July of that year,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in regard to why it had published an outdated project cost. The project cost for maintaining spent nuclear fuel has been steadily increasing as more nuclear reactors have been built, rising from 22.62 trillion won (with 28 reactors) between 2004 and 2012 to 53.28 trillion won (with 34 reactors) from 2013 to 2015.

The project cost has been increasing because of the need to keep building interim storage facilities inside the nuclear reactors to store spent nuclear fuel and the need to set aside a reserve fund for permanently disposing this waste (and no decision has been reached about where or how this waste will be disposed). “The project cost has increased because the cost of regional support, including storage fees, and the contingency preparation cost, including the cost of insurance, had not been explicitly included. We need to calculate the figures more specifically by launching another public debate about spent nuclear fuel,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said.

But implementing the government’s policy of a nuclear phaseout could shave around 19 trillion won off the spent nuclear fuel project cost, the report says. While 64.13 trillion won is required for 36 reactors (including Shin-Kori reactors 5 and 6, on which construction is currently suspended, and the reactors whose construction is planned), the cost for 28 reactors (including Shin-Kori 4 and Shin-Hanul 1 and 2, which have been completely built) would be 44.89 trillion won. The total cost of decommissioning nuclear reactors could be reduced by as much as 5.15 trillion won under the policy of the nuclear phaseout, the report found. The cost of decommissioning a single reactor was 59.5 billion won when it was first calculated in 1983, but by 2015, this had increased to 643.7 billion won.

“The government is deceiving the public when it publishes a lower project cost. Considering that the post-processing costs for nuclear reactors are increasing astronomically and that safety concerns continue to be raised about the unprecedented concentration of nuclear reactors, this is a situation that calls for serious deliberation and a reasonable social consensus about phasing out nuclear power,” Lee said.

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August 11, 2017 - Posted by | business and costs, South Korea, wastes

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