EPIC’s founding co-director Robert Rosner welcomed Kwang-Seok Lee and Younggyun Kim at the Harris School for a discussion on the development of future nuclear energy systems in South Korea on October 28th.
By Vasiliki Mitrakos
The Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC) founding co-director Robert Rosner welcomed Kwang-Seok Lee and Younggyun Kim at the Harris School for a discussion on the development of future nuclear energy systems in South Korea on October 28th.
Lee, director of the Center for ROK-US Nuclear Cooperation at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), emphasized that nuclear energy is vital for South Korea both for environmental and energy security reasons. He noted that South Korea has the lowest energy security score among all OECD countries, even when taking nuclear energy production into account.
“In Korea we don’t have any energy sources … we import 97 percent of energy from the rest of the world,” he said. “So nuclear energy is a must, not a choice.”
Lee also expressed concern over South Korea’s capacity to deal with rising nuclear waste, and stressed the importance of making changes to waste management to prevent imminent build up in the near future. According to Lee, if South Korea continues to produce nuclear energy with its current reactor technology, by 2050 the country will have amassed 47,000 tons of spent fuel. By 2100, nuclear waste will have reached 97,000 tons, well exceeding its onsite spent fuel storage capacity.
The natural limitations of South Korea’s energy sources and waste storage capacity have forced the country to search for more innovative solutions, Lee notes. One solution is the introduction of sodium cooled fast reactors (SFRs) coupled with pyroprocessing for spent fuel management. This method has been proven to drastically reduce the deep geological repository of toxic spent fuel waste.
Kim, director of the SFR Development Agency at KAERI, detailed the technical aspects and benefits of SFR reactors, and revealed South Korea’s plan to develop and construct a prototype Generation IV SFR nuclear generator by 2028.
Rosner, who served as the discussion moderator, along with Lee and Kim, cited the importance of international collaboration to further nuclear energy. Such collaboration has been ongoing between the U.S. and South Korea. KAERI and the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, for example, are working very closely to advance cutting-edge technologies.
Lee added, “Further collaboration in the future nuclear energy systems will bring benefits to both countries in a global context.”