Country profile: Republic of Korea

Summary figures for 2015

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) 2015
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
OECD Pacific
OECD Total
1 878.7
NEA Total
2 073.9

* Preliminary data

Country report

International agreements

Korea and the United States formally signed the revised Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy in June 2015 after several years of negotiations. Now that the revised agreement has entered into force, the previous 40-year-old agreement is no longer valid.

Korea and the United States also formally launched the High Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC) to facilitate strategic dialogue and technical exchanges on peaceful nuclear co-operation between the two countries as required under their bilateral nuclear co-operation agreement. In particular, the senior-level forum will examine the management of used nuclear fuel, the promotion of nuclear exports and export control operations, assurances of nuclear fuel supply and nuclear security.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Korea and Saudi Arabia was signed on 3 March 2015. The MOU was signed by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE). Under the agreement, the two countries will conduct a three-year preliminary study to review the feasibility of constructing SMART reactors in Saudi Arabia.

Another MOU was signed by Korea's MSIP and Qatar's Ministry of Energy and Industry in March 2015 for co-operation on human resources development and research on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facility

In June 2015, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) did not apply for a secondary continued operation of Kori unit 1, following recommendations made by the National Energy Commission for permanent shutdown and decommissioning. Kori unit 1 became Korea's first commercial nuclear power plant to be subject to decommissioning. Kori unit 1 is a 576 MWe pressurised water reactor that started operation in 1978. It was refurbished in 2007 and approved to run until 2017.

After safety reviews and stress tests to evaluate plant response to large-scale natural disasters exceeding design basis as a way to strictly reassess the safety of the nuclear power plant in long-term operation, Wolsong unit 1, whose design life of 30 years ended in November 2012, was approved for continued operation until 2022 by the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC).

Shin Wolsong unit 2 in Korea entered commercial operation in July 2015. The domestic OPR-1000 unit completed final testing and received the necessary permission from the country's nuclear regulator. It brings the total number of commercially operational nuclear units in Korea to 24. The unit achieved first criticality on 8 February 2015 and was connected to the grid on 26 February 2015.

Disposal of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste (LILW) in the underground silos took place for the first time in the Wolsong LILW Disposal Center (WLDC) and the storage building currently holds 5 835 drums of LILW. Construction of the underground silo-type disposal facility was completed in June 2014, having started in early 2006. It consists of six underground silos, each with a diameter of about 24 metres and located deeper than 80 metres below sea level. This first phase can hold up to 100 000 waste packages of LILW. The Korean nuclear regulator – the NSSC – approved full operation of the facility last December. The licence application of a second phase of the repository, which will be the engineered vault-type, was submitted in December 2015 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. This will add capacity to store a further 125 000 drums of LILW. Ultimately, the facility will be used to dispose of a total of 800 000 drums of waste.

Nuclear energy policy

The partial amendment of the Nuclear Safety Act pertaining to decommissioning was promulgated in January 2015 for the safe decommissioning of ageing nuclear power plants, including Kori unit 1. The term "decommissioning" is defined as "all actions or measures taken to exclude any facilities licensed or designated pursuant to the Nuclear Safety Act from the scope of application of the Nuclear Safety Act, through removal of the facility and the site or through decontamination thereof after permanent cessation of the operation of the facilities by nuclear power reactor operators, research reactor operators, and nuclear fuel cycle utilities." Submission of a decommissioning plan to the NSSC in construction and operation licensing phases of nuclear power plants and periodical renewal of the decommissioning plan are incorporated into the overall amendment of decommissioning-related contents.

Korea completed the amendment of its Act on Measures for the Protection on Nuclear Facilities, etc., and Prevention of Radiation Disasters Act and re-established its emergency planning zone (EPZ) in May 2015. By setting the basic radius of the precautionary action zone (PAZ) and the urgent protective action planning zone (UPZ) to 3~5 km and 20~30 km, respectively, and considering the social and geographical characteristics of each site in establishing zones, formulating an emergency plan to prevent severe deterministic effects and reduce stochastic effects became possible. In parallel with the extension of the EPZ, the infrastructures, manuals, and education and training programmes of local governments relating to prevention against radiation disasters are expected to be reinforced, and radiological emergency exercises to be classified, systematised and conducted more frequently.

In June 2015, the Public Engagement Commission on Spent Nuclear Fuel Management (PECOS) submitted the recommendation report to the government after collecting opinions from all walks of life for about two years. PECOS recommended that the policy on spent nuclear fuel management put top priority on safety, spent nuclear fuel storage facility be built before the at-reactor site storage becomes saturated, research and development be carried out at the underground research laboratory from 2030 after siting by 2020, and final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel be operated from 2051. Based on the recommendations of PECOS, the Korean government has been drafting the national basic plan for spent nuclear fuel management, which will be implemented in the course of 2016.

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2016

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Last reviewed: 11 January 2017