Country profile: Republic of Korea

Summary figures for 2014

The following information is from the NEA publication Nuclear Energy Data, the annual compilation of official statistics and country reports on nuclear energy in OECD member countries.

Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid
Nuclear electricity generation
(net TWh) 2014
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
Republic of Korea
OECD Pacific
1 888.0

* Provisional data

Country report

General energy policy

The Korean government approved the 2nd National Energy Plan in early 2014. The national energy plan is established to provide a long-term strategy that will determine the direction of national energy policy. In this plan, nuclear power generation will make up 29% of nation's electricity supply until 2035. Currently, nuclear power accounts for 29.6% of electricity being generated, which means that the group recommended that the government maintain the current level of dependency during the next two decades. This is a significant turnaround from the country's decades-old energy policies that have been focused on increasing dependency on nuclear power in supplying electricity since its first nuclear plant began operating in 1978.

To achieve the 2nd National Energy Basic Plan, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy is establishing the 7th Basic Plan for Long-term Electricity Supply and Demand. To achieve the target ratio of the 2nd National Energy Plan, seven more nuclear power plants will need to be built before 2035.

Nuclear energy

Currently, Korea operates 23 NPPs and has 5 NPPs under construction, three of which are scheduled for completion in 2015. In addition, preparations are being made for the construction of four more NPPs. Spent fuels are generated differently by reactor types. There are four PHWR (CANDU) units (2 779 MWe) of the 23 reactors in operation and the rest are PWRs. Generated spent fuels have been managed in specially designed wet or dry storage facilities in ferroconcrete structures at each plant site. These spent fuels will be safely stored until 2016 by expanding the capacities of temporary storage facilities in accordance with the decision of the 253rd Nuclear Committee in December 2004.

Despite most of the possible ways deployed, including spent fuel re-racking exercises in the pools to enlarge storage capacity, spent fuel storage pools will be full by 2024. Korea organised the Public Engagement Commission on Spent Nuclear Fuel Management with the aim of establishing a national policy on the management of spent fuel after gathering public and experts' opinions. This commission was asked to provide working results to the government by the end of 2014 but extended its activities into 2015.

Nuclear R&D

Since Korea's first nuclear power plant commissioning in 1978, some of the nuclear power plants in Korea are now reaching the end of their design lives. On 27 February 2015, the Korean government voted to extend the operation of the 32-year-old Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor to 2022 after a thorough review of its long-term operation following 30 years of commercial operation.

Simultaneously, a plan to establish a "Comprehensive Nuclear Decommissioning Demonstration Center" to develop relevant decommissioning technology for the integral components of a nuclear power plant, in preparation for the potential demand for the safe decommissioning of nuclear facilities, is being implemented.

In the area of spent fuel management, the low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste disposal facility began operation in December 2014, after receiving its final approval. In addition, the Korean government has operated the Public Engagement Commission on Spent Nuclear Fuel Management (PECOS), launched in October 2012, to draw up a consent-based plan on spent nuclear fuel management and obtain expert advice on realistic ideas in this area.

To this end, the development of innovative technologies in various areas is a priority, including Generation IV nuclear energy system and disposal, to find technical solutions to spent fuel management. By co-operating with the international community, Korea will actively continue with R&D in this field.

Status of NPPs

As Shin Kori unit 2 (OPR1000) and Shin Wolsong unit 1 (OPR1000) started commercial operation on July 2012, Korea had 23 nuclear power plants (6 units at Kori, 6 units at Hanbit, 5 units at Wolsong and 6 units at Hanul) in commercial operation with an installed net capacity of 20 716 MW at the end of 2014.

Kori unit 1, the oldest reactor in Korea, was granted permission to continue operation in 2008 and is still in operation. Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), the operator of Wolsong unit 1, submitted the application for licence renewal in December 2009, as its original 30-year design life expired in November 2012. As of the end of 2014, the application was still under examination.

In addition, Korea has five units under construction, four units in the stage of construction preparation, and two units being planned. The plants under construction are Shin Wolsong unit 2 (OPR1000), Shin Kori units 3 and 4 (APR1400) and Shin Hanul units 1 and 2 (APR1400). Shin Kori units 5 and 6 (APR1400) and Shin Hanul units 3 and 4 (APR1400) are in the preparation phase.

According to the 2nd Basic Energy Plan established in 2014, Nuclear power generation capacity in 2035 will be about 43 GW and account for 29% of gross electricity generation.

Radioactive waste management

As a result of 29 years of effort, the 1st stage construction of the Wolsong low- and intermediate-level waste disposal centre (WLDC) and the underground silo-type facility was completed in June 2014. A licence for operation of the underground silo-type facility was also granted by the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) in December 2014.

Public engagement on spent nuclear fuel management has been in progress since October 2013. The Public Engagement Commission on Spent Nuclear Fuel Management (PECOS) – which consists of 13 commissioners, composed of experts in human and social science and engineering and representatives recommended by residents in NPP areas – collected citizen's opinions by means of a number of town hall meetings. PECOS will submit the final report of their recommendations to the government in 2015, after a review of citizen's opinions and in-depth discussions on spent nuclear fuel management options.

Nuclear safety and regulations

Top priority is given to a high degree of nuclear safety through an implementation of strict safety standards and the regulatory regime in Korea. The establishment of the NSSC in 2011 as an independent nuclear regulatory authority demonstrates the continuous effort devoted towards nuclear safety. National policies that aim to ensure the highest nuclear safety are pursued in a broad range of areas, such as the nuclear safety regime, licensing of nuclear facilities, responses to accidents, emergency preparedness, public communication and international co-operation.

For the purpose of enhancing nuclear safety, legal actions have been reinforced to regulate not only operators but also suppliers, including designers and part manufacturers. This has led to laying a regulatory framework throughout the life cycle of NPP operation under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Safety Act.

R&D spending on nuclear safety and security by NSSC, the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS) and the Korea Institute of Nuclear Non-proliferation and Control (KINAC) reached approximately USD 66 million in 2014. Most financing comes from the government budget, and the activities are specially focused on reinforcing safety standards and overall regulation against nuclear accidents.

IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service Follow-up Mission

At the request of the Korean government, an international team of senior experts in nuclear and radiation safety met representatives of the NSSC, the Ministries of Health and Welfare (MOHW), Environment (MOE), KINS, and KINAC from 8-19 December 2014 to conduct the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) follow-up mission to Korea. The follow-up mission took place mainly at the headquarters of KINS in Daejeon.

The IRRS team concluded that the recommendations and suggestions from the 2011 IRRS mission have been taken into account systematically in a comprehensive action plan. Significant progress has been made in many areas and many improvements were carried out following the implementation of the action plan.

During this follow-up mission, the IRRS team determined that 9 out of the 10 recommendations and all 12 suggestions made by the 2011 IRRS mission had been effectively addressed and therefore could be considered closed.

IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service Mission

The IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission to Korea was held at the International Nuclear Non-proliferation and Security Academy (INSA) from 24 February to 7 March 2014.

During this IPPAS mission, the IAEA advisory team reviewed the security-related legislative and regulatory framework for nuclear and other radioactive materials and associated facilities including their computer security system, as well as security arrangements applied to the transport of nuclear material and radioactive sources.

The IAEA concluded that Korea has been conducting a strong and reliable nuclear security system and the facilities displayed a strong nuclear security system in compliance with international standards.

Issue status on counterfeit fraudulent and suspect items (CFSI)

Investigation into the authenticity of the quality verification documents (QVDs) issued by domestic institutes for the 21 reactors in operation and 5 under construction was completed in 2013, and corrective actions are underway. Investigation into the authenticity of the QVDs issued by foreign institutes for the 21 reactors in operation has been in progress since February 2014. The Nuclear Safety Act has been revised mainly to reflect the need to prevent and respond more effectively to CFSI issues.

Item Before Major changes
Vendor inspection Nuclear licensee and primary contractors Nuclear licensee, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, contractors, vendors
Non-compliance reporting None Compulsory reporting of non-compliance
Contract notification None Compulsory notification of every contract

Opening of the International Nuclear Non-proliferation and Security Academy

The KINAC/INSA was opened to the international community on 19 February 2014. INSA is KINAC's education and training centre specialising in nuclear non-proliferation and security based on a presidential commitment during the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit.

KINAC/INSA is a centre of excellence where both nuclear security education and research programmes are available. It is expected to function as a cradle of education and research, imparting advanced Korean knowledge and technology to newcomer states in nuclear energy.

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2015

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Last reviewed: 21 October 2015