The ruling Minjoo Party lawmaker Yoo Seung-hee, who is a member of the Science, ICT, Broadcasting, & Communications Committee of the National Assembly, claimed on October 12 that South Korea wasted 36.9 billion won (US$33.2 million) in the U.S. state of Idaho since 2011 with spent nuclear fuels not allowed in the state where South Korea and the United States are conducting a joint research on pyroprocessing.
The purpose of the joint research project dubbed Joint Fuel Cycle Studies (JFCS) is to reduce the volume of spent nuclear fuels to one-20th. Each of South Korea and the United States is scheduled to spend 62.5 billion won (US$56.2 million) for 10 years from 2011 in the project. South Korea has paid 36.9 billion won (US$33.2 million) so far.
“Conducting research activities with spent nuclear fuels in Idaho, where no spent nuclear fuel is allowed, makes no sense at all,” said the lawmaker, adding that each of the South Korean researchers in the project wasted 300 million won a year and the project with a total cost of 689.1 billion won (US$620 million) is nothing but a fraud. She continued to say, “The 36.9 billion won (US$33 million) that has been spent so far is only for the interest of the United States and research activities that can be of help to South Korea will not be initiated until the latter half of 2018 according to the Ministry of Science & ICT’s plan.”
The ministry explained in response that it is currently recovering U/TRU by using 4 kilograms of mixed oxide nuclear fuel stored in the Idaho National Laboratory to obtain a metallic nuclear fuel and that the light water reactor spent nuclear fuel for the demonstration of the entire pyroprocessing process is scheduled to be carried into the laboratory in August next year.
At present, the ministry and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) are planning to draw out a conclusion on technical support for spent nuclear fuel reprocessing after gathering public opinions until the end of this year. If the pyroprocessing research is halted, the existing spent nuclear fuel and that to be produced in the future, which amount to 15,000 tons and 20,000 tons each, should be buried under the ground. According to the lawmaker, the total cost of the JFCS is estimated at 17 trillion won (US$15.3 billion) to 27 trillion won (US$24 billion), including a construction cost of 3.6 trillion won (US$3.2 billion) and those for land purchase, additional research activities, local government subsidies and post-construction operations.