Gyeonju, Official Nuclear
Waste Facility Site

Heralds the end of the 19 year-old chronic dispute

The government announced the selection of Gyeongju, 371 km a city southeast of Seoul as a low- and intermediate-grade radioactive waste site, clearing the way for solving the 19 year-old chronic issue.
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Lee Hee-beom on November 3 said Gyeongju, which had a voter turnout of 70.8 percent and the highest approval rate of 89.5 percent in the previous day's referendum, was declared the official nuclear waste facility site. Gyeongju was trailed by Gunsan, which got an approval rate of 84.4 percent, while 79.3 percent and 67.5 percent of the voters in Yeongdeok and Pohang cast yes votes in their respective own referendums.
Explaining the solution of the 19 year-old pending state task during a press briefing, MOCIE Minister Lee said, "Now that residents of the site have decided on the final choice, the opinions of a majority should not be disregarded nor undermined."He noted that the government would consider steps to support the residents of the unsuccessful bidding cities and county in the context of the government's balanced national development scheme.
Concerning a concern over environment activist groups'possible filing a lawsuit, Minister Lee stressed that now is the time when all the people accept the site and proceed according to law and head for a bright future. Any legal action against the voting would be tantamount to undermining the principles of democracy, the minister added.
The government plans to start the construction of the projected nuclear radioactive waste treatment site at the earliest possible date for completion before the end of 2008.
It still has another issue construction of high-grade radioactive waste treatment site that has to be addressed and handled. If and when the National Assembly approves the Energy Basic Law and the national energy commission headed by the chief executive is established, Minister Lee said, all energy issues, including the spent nuclear fuel treatment, would be discussed with the participation by people from all walks of life.
Gyeongju is considered to be a backward city enough to tarnish its old luster as the 1000 year-old seat of Silla Kingdom during the three kingdoms period. Awarding Gyeongju with the projected nuclear waste site would bring about a tremendous windfall to the city. Estimates released by the North Gyeongsang Provincial government showed that the economic spillover effects the selection of the nuclear waste site would bring about 3.6 trillion won 3.39 trillion won in production inducement effects and 246 billion win in vale added effects on top of the effect of employing approximately 29,000 people.
A cash reward of 300 billion won is to be offered to the local administrative body of the successful bidder along with revenues stemming from fees for depositing nuclear waste, which are estimated at 8.5 billion per annum. The projected operation of the nuclear waste dump site for 60 years is expected to amount to about 500 billion won. The relocation of the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) (CEO & president Lee Joong-jae) head office will likely contribute to raising local taxes of the local autonomous body by 4.2 billion won annually.
Another major incentive for the successful nuclear waste storage facility site city is about the construction of a proton linear accelerator within the precincts of the relevant province of the planned site. The Ministry of Science and Technology will consult with the governor of the relevant province to decide on whether a proton linear accelerator, being pushed under MOST's Proton Engineering Frontier Project (PEFP), is located.
Gyeongju has remained stagnant as the city has dropped out of diverse bids for such state projects like the construction of a horse racecourse, a national Taekwondo (Korean martial art) park and a soccer center. The selection of Gyeongju as the nuclear waste site is likely to gain momentum in the development of the East Coast, including the city, staying away from the long-standing economic slump.
The projected radioactive waste site will be located at an area covering 1.9 million sq. meters (600,000 pyeong) at Bonggil-ri, Yangbuk-myeon, Gyeongju City. The mountainous area, about 30 km away from downtown Gyeongju, had been already considered as one of the most suitable candidate sites given the outcome of geological and safety checks before the government determined the final bidder. The site area near the East Coast has a good transportation approach due to the adjacent National Road No. 31. The site area has four nuclear power plants in operation since Wolsung Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 was dedicated in April 1983. The Sin-Wolsung Nuclear Plant Units 1 & 2, now under construction, will be completed by March 2012.
Gyeongju Mayor Paek Sang-seung said, "With attraction of the nuclear waste site, Gyeongju is expected to make pivotal momentum in the development of the East Costal area, including the city, and the municipal government plans to transform Gyeongju from the metropolis of history and culture into a science metropolis."
The government's nearly two decade-long effort to build a nuclear waste storage ended in failure, repeatedly mainly due to the prevailing not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) syndrome. In particular, the latest so-called Buan Incident in 2003 apparently provided a bitter lesson as the government's moves to push a projected nuclear waste site on Anmyeon-do Island on the West Coast touched off violent, months-long clashes between nearby residents and antinuclear activists and public forces.
With the latest Buan Incident in mind, the government has exerted itself to find a solution in a more transparent and democratic manner, as the temporary space for keeping nuclear waste is running short, particularly low- and mid-degree radiation waste.
A special law has been legislated to specify the coverage scope of a new nuclear waste storage facility to low- and mid-grade waste, not spent nuclear fuel, a move designed to wipe out misgivings about safety.
The Radioactive Nuclear Waste Disposal Facility Site Selection Committee was formed to select a nuclear waste storage site in a transparent and fair manner. The committee, headed by Chairman Han Kap-soo, is made up of 17 committee members selected from key sectors in the nation, including the humanities field (4), science technology (4), journalism (4) and judiciary (1). The committee has four subcommittees, also manned by experts from several fields.
The special law requires residents'consent through voting as the prerequisite condition of becoming the planned nuclear waste storage site. Disclosure of information in connection with holding debates and explanation sessions is stipulated in the law.
Gyeongju City, Pohang City and Yeongdeok County, all in North Gyeongsang Province along with Gunsan, North Jeolla Province submitted bids as the deadline for applying as candidate sites were passed on August 31. Gyeongju City picked its candidate site as the Bonggil-ri area in Yangbuk-myeon, near the Wolsung Nuclear Complex, while Pohang and Yeongdeok selected their candidate sites as Sangok-ri in Jukjang-myeon and Sangweon-ri, Chuksan-myeon, respectively. Gunsan proposed Biung-do Island as its candidate. However, the ministry turned down the application bids by Ulchin, Samcheok and Buan, citing the failure to gain approval from their city councils.
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MOCIE Minister Lee announces the designation of Gyeongju as the official nuclear waste treatment site.

 

KHNP CEO & President Lee Joong-jae

An artist conception shows the planned low-and intermediate-grade radioactive waste site (at center) in Bonggil-ri, Yangbuk-myeon, Gyeongju City


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