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South Korea's corrupt and dangerous nuclear industry

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

Systemic corruption … cartel behavior … a secret military side-agreement to the UAE reactor contract … serious nuclear safety problems still evident in 2019 … plans to sell reactor technology to Saudi Arabia and thus to facilitate the Kingdom's weapons ambitions … what's not to like about South Korea's nuclear industry?

We covered South Korea's nuclear corruption scandals in Nuclear Monitor in May 20171 and this article updates and expands upon the previous one.

In May 2012, five engineers were charged with covering up a potentially dangerous power failure at South Korea's Kori-1 reactor which led to a rapid rise in the reactor core temperature.2 The accident occurred because of a failure to follow safety procedures. A manager decided to conceal the incident and to delete records, despite a legal obligation to notify the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission.

Around the same time, a much bigger and broader scandal emerged involving fake safety certifications for reactor parts, sub-standard reactor parts, cartel behavior and bribery.1-3 The corrupt practices stretched back to 2004 if not earlier.4

The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety reported:5

  • A total of 2,114 test reports were falsified: 247 test reports in relation to replaced parts for 23 reactors, an additional 944 falsifications in relation to 'items' for three recently commissioned reactors, and 923 falsifications in relation to 'items' for five reactors under construction.
  • Results were 'unidentified' for an additional 3,408 test reports ‒ presumably it was impossible to assess whether or not the reports were falsified.
  • Twenty-nine of the forgeries concerned 'seismic qualification', and the legitimacy of a further 43 seismic reports was 'unclear'.
  • Over 7,500 reactor parts were replaced in the aftermath of the scandal.

Safety-related equipment was installed on the basis of falsified documentation. For example, equipment failed under Loss-Of-Coolant-Accident conditions during at least one concealed test, according to a whistleblower.6 Other examples include the substandard, uncertified cabling that was found to be defective when it triggered shutdowns at two nuclear plants.4

The situation in South Korea mirrors that in Japan prior to the Fukushima disaster ‒ i.e. systemic corruption ‒ except that Japan's corrupt nuclear establishment is known as the 'nuclear village' whereas South Korea's corrupt nuclear establishment is known as the 'nuclear mafia'.7

A 2014 parliamentary audit revealed that the temporary suspension of the operation of nuclear power plants after the scandal emerged caused the loss of 10 trillion won (US$8.4 billion).8 It also led to power shortages.

Nuclear power advocate Will Davis wrote this summary of the scandals in 2014:4

"Electing for brevity, suffice it to say that various schemes to advance the position of persons or companies in the South Korean nuclear industry have resulted in substandard parts being employed (particularly cable supplied by JS Cable, a company that is presently being liquidated), false quality assurance certificates being filed, and various collusion/bribery schemes among varied personnel at contractors and in the KHNP universe of subsidiaries ‒ with involvement reaching even to the highest (former) executives.

"While the true extent and nature of these corrupt activities began to be illuminated only at the end of 2011, in fact the activities stretched far prior; a recent article in the Korea Herald noted that JS Cable failed to obtain certification for nuclear parts for its product twice in 2004, and then somehow immediately made a sale of such equipment for a total of 5.5 billion won (US$5.06 million). That cabling was eventually found to be defective when it triggered shutdowns at two nuclear plants, in May 2013. Many corporate offices (including those of KHNP) were raided throughout the summer, and many arrests made ‒ arrests that included a former president of KHNP.

"Much more than cable from one company has been implicated; implicated parts (questionable parts, or questionable certifications, or both) were thought to possibly be in service at as many as 11 nuclear plants in South Korea."

The corruption also affected South Korea's reactor construction project in the UAE.9 Hyundai Heavy Industries employees offered bribes to KHNP officials in charge of the supply of parts for reactors to be exported to the UAE.

More fundamental changes needed

The New York Times reported in August 2013 that despite the government's pledge to ban parts suppliers found to have falsified documents from bidding again for 10 years, KHNP imposed only a six-month penalty for such suppliers.10 The New York Times continued:

"And nuclear opponents say that more fundamental changes are needed in the regulatory system, pointing out that one of the government's main regulating arms, the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety, gets 60 percent of its annual budget from Korea Hydro."

Worse still, a 2014 parliamentary audit revealed that some officials fired from KEPCO E&C (Korea Electric Power Corporation Engineering and Construction) over the scandals were rehired.11

The scandal was still on the boil in 2014. Korea Times reported on 25 June 2014:7

"The government has discovered irregularities yet again that could threaten the safety of nuclear reactors. This time, the perpetrators are parts suppliers that presented fake quality certificates in the course of replacing antiquated parts used in nuclear power plants. Six state testing facilities were also found to have failed to conduct adequate tests before issuing certificates. A two-month audit of the six testing facilities by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy showed that 39 quality certificates presented by 24 companies were fabricated. ...

"Most disheartening in the latest revelation of irregularities is that the state-run certifiers failed to detect fabrications by skipping the required double-testing. ... Given the magnitude of corruption in the nuclear industry arising from its intrinsic nature of being closed, the first step toward safety should be to break the deep-seated food chain created by the so-called nuclear mafia, which will help enhance transparency ultimately. With the prosecution set to investigate the suppliers, the certifiers will face business suspension. But it's imperative to toughen penalties for them, considering that light punitive measures have stood behind the lingering corruption in the nuclear industry."

Opposition to South Korea's corrupt 'nuclear mafia' feeds into broader concerns about corruption. Japan Times reported in May 2017:12

"Opinion polls taken just before the election showed that the top concern for the country's voters was "deep-rooted corruption" and a desire to promote reform; second on that list was economic revival. If Moon is to succeed in those tasks, he must tackle the chaebol, the huge industrial conglomerates that dominate the South Korean economy and have outsized influence in its politics."

Japan's corrupt 'nuclear village' survived the political fallout from the Fukushima disaster and is back in charge.13 It would be naïve to imagine that the tepid response to South Korea's scandals has done away with the 'nuclear mafia' once and for all. There were another six arrests related to nuclear corruption in 2018 ‒ an outcome that only scratched the surface of the corruption according to a whistleblower.14


An April 2019 article in MIT Technology Review provides further detail and an update on the corruption scandals:14

"On September 21, 2012, officials at KHNP had received an outside tip about illegal activity among the company's parts suppliers. By the time President Park had taken office, an internal probe had become a full-blown criminal investigation. Prosecutors discovered that thousands of counterfeit parts had made their way into nuclear reactors across the country, backed up with forged safety documents. KHNP insisted the reactors were still safe, but the question remained: was corner-cutting the real reason they were so cheap?

"Park Jong-woon, a former manager who worked on reactors at Kepco and KHNP until the early 2000s, believed so. He had seen that taking shortcuts was precisely how South Korea's headline reactor, the APR1400, had been built.

"After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, most reactor builders had tacked on a slew of new safety features. KHNP followed suit but later realized that the astronomical cost of these features would make the APR1400 much too expensive to attract foreign clients. They eventually removed most of them," says Park, who now teaches nuclear engineering at Dongguk University. "Only about 10% to 20% of the original safety additions were kept."

"Most significant was the decision to abandon adding an extra wall in the reactor containment building ‒ a feature designed to increase protection against radiation in the event of an accident. "They packaged the APR1400 as 'new' and safer, but the so-called optimization was essentially a regression to older standards," says Park. "Because there were so few design changes compared to previous models, [KHNP] was able to build so many of them so quickly."

"Having shed most of the costly additional safety features, Kepco was able to dramatically undercut its competition in the UAE bid, a strategy that hadn't gone unnoticed. After losing Barakah to Kepco, Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon likened the Korean unit to a car without airbags and seat belts. When I told Park this, he snorted in agreement. "Objectively speaking, if it's twice as expensive, it's going to be about twice as safe," he said. At the time, however, Lauvergeon's comments were dismissed as sour words from a struggling rival.

"By the time it was completed in 2014, the KHNP inquiry had escalated into a far-reaching investigation of graft, collusion, and warranty forgery; in total, 68 people were sentenced and the courts dispensed a cumulative 253 years of jail time. Guilty parties included KHNP president Kim Jong-shin, a Kepco lifer, and President Lee Myung-bak's close aide Park Young-joon, whom Kim had bribed in exchange for "favorable treatment" from the government.

"Several faulty parts had also found their way into the UAE plants, angering Emirati officials. "It's still creating a problem to this day," Neilson-Sewell, the Canadian advisor to Barakah, told me. "They lost complete faith in the Korean supply chain."

"The scandals, however, were not over. Earlier this year, at a small bakery in Seoul, I met Kim Min-kyu. A slight 44-year-old man with earnest, youthful eyes, Kim used to be a senior sales manager at Hyosung Heavy Industries, a manufacturer of reactor parts. In 2010, he was put in charge of selling to KHNP and quickly discovered that double-dealing was as routine as paperwork. 

""Suppliers who were supposed to be competing with one another colluded to decide who would win [KHNP bids]," Kim told me. "You'd have a group of white-haired executives from competing firms sitting across from each other, playing rock-paper-scissors to decide who would take certain contracts." Dummy bids would then be supported by fake documents, doctored to ensure that the designated loser would fail. On one occasion, he says, an irate KHNP procurement manager called him to point out an amateurish forgery in a fake bidding document ‒ and demanded he do it again, properly.

"Some of these practices constituted serious lapses in safety. In May 2014, Kim oversaw the delivery of 11 load center transformers bound for the Hanul Nuclear Power Plant in North Gyeongsang province, only to discover that their safety licenses hadn't been renewed. Load center transformers manage the flow of power to key emergency functions at reactors; any malfunction, Kim told me, would be "like a hurtling car suddenly stalling."

"Yet a secret agreement between Hyosung and competitors had designated it the winner, and the transformers were installed into two reactors, their integrity unquestioned. "I personally knew of around 300 cases where those transformers caught on fire. They're incredibly unstable," says Kim, his brow furrowed. "My hometown is actually just a few kilometers from those reactors, and an accident there could endanger my relatives who live nearby."

"In 2015, fearing a Fukushima-like accident, Kim decided to report the corruption through his company's internal whistleblowing system. The only result was that he was fired.

""How naïve I was," he says, flashing a rueful grin. He eventually went to the country's competition regulator, which referred the case to prosecutors. In 2018, he took his story to the media. A few months later, on the basis of tips from Kim, prosecutors charged six employees from Hyosung and co-conspirator LS Industrial Systems with collusion ‒ an outcome that Kim believes only scratches the surface of the corruption.

"More untruths soon came to light. In 2018, after years of government denial, former defense minister Kim Taeyoung admitted that the rumors about the military side agreement with the UAE were, in fact, true: he had overseen it himself in a desperate attempt to seal the Barakah deal. "There was low risk of a dangerous situation arising, and even if it did, we believed that our response could be flexible," he told South Korean media. "In the event of an actual conflict, I figured that we would ask for parliamentary ratification then." ...

"On principle, I don't trust anything that KHNP built," says Kim Min-kyu, the corruption whistleblower. More and more South Koreans have developed a general mistrust of what they refer to as "the nuclear mafia" ‒ the close-knit pro-nuclear complex spanning KHNP, academia, government, and monied interests. Meanwhile the government watchdog, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, has been accused of revolving door appointments, back-scratching, and a disregard for the safety regulations it is meant to enforce."

The secret military side-agreement to the Korea/UAE reactor contract has led to debate as to whether the Lee government violated the constitution when it signed the agreement without the approval of the National Assembly.15 A confidential US briefing leaked by Wikileaks said the military side-agreement covered defense industry technology exchanges, cooperation on military training and support, and exchanges of high-ranking military officials.16

Kim Tae-young, who served as Defense Minister under the Lee administration from September 2009 to December 2010, said:15

"At the time, France had nearly clinched the UAE nuclear reactor deal. South Korea needed to show it was fully committed to the UAE. We signed an agreement for the South Korean military to intervene if the UAE runs into military trouble."

Inadequate nuclear safety standards

Clearly inadequate nuclear safety standards are still in evidence in 2019. A case in point was an incident at the Hanbit 1 reactor on 10 May 2019. The reactor's thermal output exceeded safety limits but was kept running for nearly 12 hours when it should have been shut down manually at once.17 The thermal output rose from 0% to 18% in one minute, far exceeding the 5% threshold that should have triggered a manual shutdown.

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) ordered the suspension of operation of the nuclear power plant and dispatched a team of special judiciary police officers to carry out a special inspection.18 The NSSC said in a May 20 statement:18

"The NSSC confirmed that the KHNP did not immediately stop the reactor even though the thermal output of the reactor exceeded the limit during the Control Element Reactivity Measurement Test and that the control rod was operated by a person who does not have a Reactor Operator's license (RO). The NSSC said that negligence of the person having a Senior Reactor Operator's license (SRO) in supervising and directing the operation is suspected, and therefore there is a possibility of violating the Nuclear Safety Act."

The NSSC said on June 25:19

"According to the midterm results of the special investigation on the Hanbit Unit 1, which was released on June 24th, the event happened because the licensee (the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power) did not abide by the Nuclear Safety Act, Technical Specifications and internal procedures".

The Hanbit-1 incident was one of three occasions in 2019 alone when a reactor was shut down soon after being reactivated. The Hankyoreh newspaper editorialized on 9 September 2019:20

"South Korean nuclear power plants that have reopened following government approval have faced a string of malfunctions, bringing their operations to a halt. These accidents raise worrying questions about the safety of nuclear energy. There's an urgent need for nuclear energy regulators to carry out thorough inspections and to prevent such accidents from reoccurring. ... Another question that must be asked is whether regulators have been too hasty in authorizing the reactors' reactivation."


1. Nuclear Monitor #844, 25 May 2017, 'South Korea's 'nuclear mafia'',

2. Nuclear Monitor #765, 1 Aug 2013, 'South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens',

3. Nuclear Monitor #771, 2 Nov 2013, 'South Korea indicts 100 people over safety scandals',

4. Will Davis, 6 Feb 2014, 'South Korea nuclear power: Are the dark times over?',

5. Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety,

6. Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al., 2016, World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016, or direct download:

7. Korea Times, 25 June 2016, 'Fake certificates again',

8. Se Young Jang, 8 Oct 2015, 'The Repercussions of South Korea's Pro-Nuclear Energy Policy',

9. Choi Kyong-ae, 12 Jan 2014, 'Hyundai Heavy vows to root out corruption',

10. Choe Sang-hun, 3 Aug 2013, 'Scandal in South Korea Over Nuclear Revelations',

11. Se Young Jang, 8 Oct 2015, 'The Repercussions of South Korea's Pro-Nuclear Energy Policy',

12. Japan Times, 10 May 2017, 'The pendulum swings in South Korea',

13. Nuclear Monitor #800, 19 March 2015, 'Japan's 'nuclear village' reasserting control',

14. Max S. Kim, 22 April 2019, 'How greed and corruption blew up South Korea's nuclear industry',

15. Lee Seung-jun, 10 Jan 2018, 'Secret military pact likely led to Blue House Chief of Staff's UAE visit',


17. Choi Ha-yan, 21 May 2019, 'Nuclear reactor kept running for 12 hours after it should have been shut down',

18. Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, 20 May 2019, 'The NSSC to Expand the Special Inspection on Manual Shutdown of Hanbit Unit 1',

19. Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, 25 June 2019, 'Comments on the news article: Event at Hanbit Unit 1 was caused by a violation of the law and human error and irrelevant to the energy transition policy',

20. Editorial ‒ Hankyoreh, 9 Sept 2019, 'Nuclear energy regulators need to be more vigilant in inspections than ever',

Social peripheries and the siting of nuclear facilities in South Korea and Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jinyoung Park ‒ Ph.D. student in Environmental and Energy Law, School of Law, Seoul National University

In July 2017, there was an interesting event in South Korea. The government asked a citizens panel to consider whether or not the partially-built Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors should be completed. Since it was settled to complete the construction, many researchers tried to analyze why people, even local residents who live near the plant, supported the project. This article aims to answer that question.

The paper focuses on the unique siting patterns of nuclear-related facilities in South Korea, and compares it with the situation in Japan. In both nations, most nuclear facilities have concentrated in a few locations including several considered here – Ulju and Gyeongju in Korea, and Futaba and Rokkasho in Japan.

In theoretical perspective, this study started with the concept of 'social peripheralisation', which is suggested by Andrew Blowers and Peter Leroy (1994). They investigated several LULU (Locally Unwanted Land Use) facilities in Europe, and concluded that these types of facilities tend to be located in marginal regions in various aspects. Earlier studies also linked the siting of such facilities to social marginalisation (see Blauner, 1972). Blowers and Leroy focused on the process and characteristics of conflicts, how local regions and members of the community reacted to the siting of each facility, and identified five aspects of peripheralisation: economic marginality; geographic remoteness; environmental degradedness; cultural defensiveness; and political powerlessness.

Ulju: Kori and Shin Kori nuclear complex

Ulju in the south-eastern area of South Korea has three nuclear power plants (Shin Kori-4/5/6). When combined with the adjacent Gijang region (Kori-2/3/4 and Shin Kori-1/2/3), it is one of the largest nuclear complexes in the world.

A noteworthy point in this region is that Ulju accepted three plants because of Gijang. This is explained by then-governor, Jin-gu Park: "KEPCO plans to build four reactors in Hyoam region in Gijang. As you might know, Hyoam is close to our boundary. Thus, it might be regarded that the specific location is not the matter of issue in the aspect of safety, but when it comes to the compensation, it can bring distinctive differences. Thus, I considered that it seems better to invite the facility to our region on economic grounds." (Ulsan Local Council, 1999)

It illustrates that Ulju already shared a certain level of risk from nuclear plants in Gijang, and accepting nuclear plants in Ulju would bring a massive economic benefit. For instance, in its long-term development strategy by Ulju Development Institute (2014) identifies neighboring regions, such as Gijang and Gyeongju, not only as partners but also rivals for development. Considering the above points, it seems that Ulju is highly affected by its faith in economic development and the existing risk of nuclear energy.

At the same time, the government played a crucial role encouraging the acceptance of nuclear power reactors. In South Korea, there are several laws that require the government and utilities to financially support the place that hosts the electricity generating plant. According this rule, Ulju KHNP (Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power) announced the payment ‒ solely for the siting of Shin Kori 3 ‒ of ₩31.5 billion (US$28.0 million) in acquisition tax, ₩2.4 billion (US$2.1 million) in special tax for rural development, and ₩1.4 billion (US$1.24 million) in local education tax to Ulju district (Yonhap News, 2016).

In fact, there was aggressive opposition by people in Ulju when the government tried to build Shin Kori 3 there. However, KHNP completely ignored local opposition. And local politicians also regard the nuclear project as an 'inevitable task' from the perspective of local politics; therefore, even the local government could not easily oppose the plan.

When we returned to the recent situation of Ulju, people formed a tight alliance to protect the Shin Kori reactors from the President's policy to review whether or not construction should be completed. The background to this turn-around is evident in a comment by Lee san-dae, one of the local residents: "Whilst local people intensively opposed the siting of Shin-Kori 3 and 4 reactors, opposition faded. Over time, it was acknowledged that we cannot make any changes in the case of Shin-Kori 5 and 6 plants, and people decided to cooperate with the siting." (Lee, 2017).

Gyeongju: low and intermediate level radioactive waste

Gyeongju lies in the north-east corner of the Korean Peninsula, and is well known as the capital of the Shill dynasty for nearly a century. From this historical background, it is also called the treasure house of historical and cultural assets in Korea. In this sense, the regional economy in Gyeongju relies highly on the tourism industry and related service sector (the tertiary sector accounts for 51% of all employment).

To manage these historical sites, the government set strict regulations about urban development and planning, such as altitude and structure limitation of buildings. However, these so-called 'Culture belt' regulations have been a stringent obstacle for regional development and urban planning for Gyeongju (Jang, 2005). These circumstances are a cause of deep resentment towards the national government for people in Gyeongju, and resulted in the aspiration for self-reliance and local development (Choi, 2007).

Additionally, as Gyeongju constantly failed to win national projects (for example, a Taekwondo park and racecourse in 2005), they came to argue that this was regional discrimination compared to neighboring regions, such as Busan, Pohang and Ulsan, which are major hubs of industrialization. Put differently, Gyeongju shows similarities to Ulju in its faith for economic development and competition with neighboring regions.

Moreover, Gyeongju has already hosted six nuclear plants (Wolsung 1-4 and Shin Wolsung 1 and 2) since 1983. The plants significantly contributed to the region's growth, not only creating economic supports but also hiring approximately 10% of their workforce in the region. These points seem to have contributed to people's positive perceptions about hosting a repository for low and intermediate level radioactive waste.

Cho (2007), however, criticized the process, describing how peripheral communities tend to lose their identities and set their development strategy into inviting so-called NIMBY and LULU facilities. From this perspective, backward communities reinforce their marginality as a consequence of efforts to overcome their powerlessness through the siting of nuclear-related facilities.

In Gyeongju, the radioactive waste repository has been built and the nuclear industry has become a major channel for regional development rather than tourism and related industries. As an example, Gyeongju and Gyeongsanbuk-do plan to show the city as the core of the nuclear cluster while accumulating further facilities, such as research institutes.

Futaba: Fukushima nuclear reactors

Prior to the Fukushima accident, there were six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and four reactors at Fukushima Daini. Fukushima is said to be the core of Genpatsu Ginza, translated as Nuclear Plaza; it was one of the largest nuclear clusters in the world.

The nuclear plant in Fukushima was invited in an unexpected way. A member of the House of Councilors from Fukushima constituency, Kimura tried to utilize Futaba's idle lands for the nuclear energy business, and discussed it with Sato Kiichi (then governor of Fukushima prefecture) and Kigawada Kazutaka, a Fukushima-native then vice-president of TEPCO (Fukushima Minpo, 2011).

Another noteworthy pillar can be regional poverty in the Futaba area. Although local people subsisted on the agriculture and fishery industries, Dekasegi (going to other cities for work) was the daily routine for members of the village, especially in the winter (NHK, 2013). The public briefing by TEPCO promoted a local nuclear plant as 'free from Dekasegi'.

At the start of construction, the stimulation of the regional economy seemed enough to give local residents the impression that 'Fukushima is becoming the city'. In fact, according to Three Power Source Development Laws, Okuma town marked significant growth in the 1970s with the benefits from the nuclear facilities. The situation in Futaba town was similar. Fixed asset tax for Futaba town in 1982 reached approximately ¥1.9 billion, which was nearly half the total revenue. In addition, in terms of TEPCO in Futaba town, it created almost one-third of regional employment, including outsourcing firms, according to calculations by Shimizu (2004). Furthermore, the construction industry and service sectors (such as restaurants, cleaning services and barber shops) that targeted workers in the nuclear industry expanded across the region

However, the nuclear-focused regional economy could not last for long. Under the structure of the Three Power Laws, in order to secure tax revenue, the region had to prove their demand, which means they were required to invest more budgets to acquire more taxation. In spite of constant attempts, they could not reduce the pace of collapse of the nuclear-reliant regional economy, especially in Futaba town.

This extremely vulnerable structure of the regional economy drove Futaba town to rely on additional calls for nuclear facilities (Tohoku Politics and Economics, 1997). In September 1991, Futaba local council unanimously passed a bill to invite further nuclear power plants. These were to be the 7th and 8th reactors at Fukushima Daiichi; however, the plan did not materialize due to the disaster. Concerning these phenomena, Sato Eisaku, governor of Fukushima from 1988 to 2006, likened it to 'drug addiction' (Sato, 2011).

Moreover, nuclear energy was not only embedded in the local community, it also restructured the community. Kainuma (2011) argues that local people tend to see minor and individual risks as 'inevitable', and consequently negative opinion cannot be expressed in the society. These mindsets help them live in their hometown with their family and neighbors. In essence, it can be said that local residents rebuilt their lifestyles, and reached a position that self-justified their co-existence with nuclear power facilities. This pattern seems critical to understanding the background of the powerful nuclear regime and myth of nuclear safety in Japan ‒ the myth that was one of the drivers of Fukushima accident.

Consequently, it seems noteworthy that Fukushima invited the nuclear reactors to their community to combat poverty; but it caused the antithetical situation that reinforced addictiveness in the aspects of economic and cultural support.

Rokkasho village: nuclear fuel cycle facilities

Rokkasho village is located in the northeast peninsula, the so-called Shimokita-hantou (Shimokita peninsula) in Aomori prefecture, Japan. This project was triggered by the Mutsu-ogawara plan to build huge petrochemical and steelmaking plants. However, the first and second oil shocks resulted in a complete shift of the government's plans. This was an alarming event, not only for the national government but also for Aomori prefecture because the debts of the existing Mutsu-ogawara partners had risen from ¥82.7 billion to ¥130 billion (US$1.17 billion) since the plan was initiated, due to the non-disposal of land. Arguably, this financial circumstance strongly affected the invitation of the next development scheme ‒ nuclear fuel cycle facilities in the Rokkasho region.

However, the Chernobyl accident aroused people's attention to oppose the project. Thus, the nuclear fuel cycle became a core election issue. Despite aggressive demonstrations, the result was that the pro-nuclear candidate, Kitamura Masaya, who was supported by the utilities and the ruling party, was reappointed as a governor.

At present, Rokkasho village is one of the few regions that promote nuclear power, even after the Fukushima accident. The economic influences of the nuclear facility, particularly financial support and employment, might have encouraged local people to choose a nuclear-friendly candidate (Itoh, 2016). Rokkasho village has been the richest region in Japan. Also in Rokkasho village, nearly 10% of local people work at JNFL.

According to Funabashi (2012), although economic benefits from the nuclear fuel cycle have accelerated local acceptance, there remains local concern and questions about the facility. It has been shown that 61% of people in Rokkasho village said they wished the nuclear fuel cycle could be scaled down if they could ensure employment in alternative ways. Whilst people seem to be positive regarding nuclear facilities due to the economic and employment benefits, there is an underlying uncertainty and fear.

Conclusion: toward sustainable nuclear transition

Governments and firms promise large economic incentives to win support for nuclear projects. Marginal communities ‒ hollowed, aged communities and those which already host similar facilities ‒ tend to accept the trade-off between financial support and safety risks. Also, once they accept nuclear facilities, those facilities shape their surrounding region and pro-nuclear sentiment tends to grow as dependence sets in. Thus nuclear facilities in South Korea and Japan are generally found in concentrated clusters. As Andrew Blowers emphasizes, social peripheralisation is not a one-time phenomenon, it constantly exacerbates their marginality.

South Korea and Japan have both pledged to reduce their reliance on nuclear power and the processes of peripheralisation and marginalisation will shape the unfolding energy transition.

This article is based on a longer article: Jinyoung Park & Benjamin K. Sovacool, 2018, 'The contested politics of the Asian atom: peripheralisation and nuclear power in South Korea and Japan', Environmental Politics, 27:4, 686-711,


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Cho, S. (2007) 'How Does the Democratic Institution Bring the Retreat of Democracy? - A Study of the Bureaucratic Reform and Nuclear Waste Depository Policy under the Noh Moo Hyun Government', Economy and Society, pp. 139-170. (in Korean)

Choi, J., (2007) Nuclear waste facility siting in Korea: the relations between government compensation, distance, and the public's judgement of risk, Ph.D. Dissertation, University at Albany, State University of New York.

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South Korea scraps plans for four power reactors

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

South Korea has taken steps in line with the government's nuclear phase-out policy ‒ an aging reactor (Wolsong 1) will be closed and plans for four new reactors have been cancelled.1

President Moon Jae-in was one of seven candidates in the May 2017 presidential election who signed an agreement to phase out nuclear energy. In June 2017, at a ceremony to mark the permanent shutdown of the Kori 1 reactor, the President said plans for new power reactors will be cancelled and the operating periods of existing reactors will not be extended beyond their design life.2

Late last year, approval was granted to complete two partially-built reactors ‒ Shin Kori 5 and 6 ‒ but there won't be any construction starts while Moon Jae-in is in power.

South Korea has 24 power reactors (including Wolsong 1) and the government plans to reduce the number to 18 in 2031 and 14 in 20381,3, with a complete phase-out over subsequent decades.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) ‒ a subsidiary of the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), the majority government-owned utility responsible for 93% of electricity generation in South Korea ‒ announced on June 15 that it will close Wolsong 1, its oldest reactor, before its 2022 licence expiry. Wolsong 1 is a 657-MW CANDU pressurised heavy water reactor which commenced operation in 1983. Its 30-year operational licence expired in 2012 but was extended for another 10 years to 2022.

KHNP cited "uncertain economic viability" and low operating performance as reasons for the early closure of Wolsong 1. KHNP CEO Chung Jae-hoon said: "According to the government's energy policy shift, we have reviewed the operational plans of the Wolsong reactors several times and concluded [that] keeping Wolsong unit 1 operating under strengthened safety regulations would not be economical."1

Four planned reactors cancelled

KHNP on June 15 also announced the cancellation of plans for four new reactors. Chung Jae-hoon said "the plans for building new reactors of Cheonji-1,2 and Daejin-1,2 would be terminated in order to eradicate uncertainties in the KHNP's management and restore smooth relations with local residents."4 Another two reactors that were in the planning stage ‒ Shin Hanul 3 and 4 ‒ were cancelled in the aftermath of Moon Jae-in's election victory.5,6

The Cheonji and Daejin reactors were to be a new 1500 MWe APR+ design ‒ the successor to the APR1400 design (of which one is operating in South Korea and four are under construction in the United Arab Emirates).1

KHNP had invested 90.4 billion won (US$81.1 million) into construction plans of Cheonji 1 and 2 in Yeongdeok, North Gyeongsang Province and 3.3 billion won (US$2.9 million) into Daejin 1 and 2 in Samcheok, Gangwon Province.7


With the prospects for new domestic reactors greatly diminished, South Korea's nuclear industry hopes to thrive in export markets. The government is actively supporting nuclear export efforts though there may be a limit to its largesse ‒ if, for example, the South Korean government is asked to stump up billions to finance overseas reactor projects.

In 2009, a KEPCO-led consortium won the contract to build four power reactors in the United Arab Emirates. In 2010, boosted by the UAE contract, South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy set a target of winning contracts to build 80 power reactors overseas by 2030, and in 2015 KEPCO had a target of winning overseas contracts for six reactors by 2020.6 But all those targets have come to absolutely nothing ‒ KEPCO and KHNP haven't won any reactor construction contracts since the 2009 UAE contract.

South Korea has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with at least 27 countries8 but those agreements aren't leading to reactor contracts. The downscaling of South Korea's domestic nuclear industry won't help KEPCO and KHNP win contracts. "If Korea stops building reactors domestically it will definitely hurt their export market," said Jessica Lovering from the pro-nuclear Breakthrough Institute last year.9

The four recently-cancelled domestic APR+ reactors were to address some of the APR1400 design flaws (such as limited aircraft crash protection and the lack of a core-catcher) that would make it difficult to win contracts in Europe and perhaps elsewhere.

On 2 July 2018, KEPCO was short-listed to bid for a two-reactor project in Saudi Arabia along with consortia based in the US, France, China and Russia. South Korea also hopes to build 'SMART' small modular reactors in Saudi Arabia but no other country ‒ including South Korea itself ‒ has built a SMART reactor.

KEPCO was selected as a preferred bidder in December 2017 for Toshiba's NuGen reactor project in Moorside, Britain. That may progress but there is a long way to go. The financial requirements would test the largesse of the South Korean government, and several years would be required to go through the UK reactor licensing process.

KHNP CEO Chung Jae-hoon said in June 2018 that every effort is being made to search for opportunities in "strategic markets," including Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and the Philippines. "We will knock on any door, seeking whatever benefits we can get. The Korean nuclear industry can survive as long as it finds ways to complement it business model," he said.10 However not all of those four countries will build new reactors; perhaps none of them will.

South Korea's nuclear cooperation agreement with South Africa was ruled to be illegal by the South African High Court last year. And South Africa's nuclear project is unlikely to be revived after the ousting of former President Jacob Zuma.

South Korea hoped to export reactors to Vietnam, but Vietnam cancelled its nuclear power program in 2016.

South Korea's attempts to get into the Indian nuclear market have come to nothing.8,11

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been slowly assessing South Korea's APR1400 reactor design but even if that review is completed and successful, there is no prospect of new reactors in the US for the foreseeable future.


1. World Nuclear Association, 15 June 2018, 'Early closure for Korea's oldest operating reactor',

2. Nikkei Asian Review, 19 June 2017, 'South Korea's President Moon says plans to exit nuclear power',

3. Heesu Lee and Stephen Stapczynski, 24 Oct 2018, 'South Korea Will Build Two of Them',

4. Nam Hyun-woo, 15 June 2018, 'Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor to shut down before end of lifespan',

5. Mark Hibbs, 22 June 2017, 'Moon's Phase-Out: What does it imply?',

6. World Nuclear Association, Dec 2017, 'Nuclear Power in South Korea',

7. Yoon Ja-young, 21 June 2018, 'KHNP to get compensation for nuclear shutdown',

8. Robert Einhorn, Fred F. McGoldrick, James L. Tyson, and Duyeon Kim, 16 Jan 2015, 'ROK-U.S. Civil Nuclear and Nonproliferation Collaboration in Third Countries', wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ROK-US-Civil-Nuclear-and-Nonproliferation-Collaboration-in-Third-Countries.pdf

9. Stephen Stapczynski, 16 May 2017, 'New South Korean President Seen Hindering Nuclear Ambitions',

10. Yonhap, 8 June 2018, 'S. Korean nuclear operator turns outward to foreign markets',

11. Anirban Bhaumik, 12 Jan 2014, 'New Delhi wary of nuclear cooperation with Seoul',

South Korea's 'nuclear mafia'

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor.

In May 2012, five engineers were charged with covering up a potentially dangerous power failure at the Kori-1 reactor which led to a rapid rise in the reactor core temperature.1 The accident occurred because of a failure to follow safety procedures. A manager decided to conceal the incident and to delete records, despite a legal obligation to notify the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission.

Then in November 2012, a much bigger and broader scandal emerged involving fake safety certifications for reactor parts, sub-standard reactor parts, and bribery.2,3

Here's a bland summary of the scandal from the World Nuclear Association:4

"In 2012 KHNP [Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power] discovered that it had been supplied with falsely-certified non-safety-critical parts for at least five power reactors. The utility told the ministry that eight unnamed suppliers – reportedly seven domestic companies and one US company – forged some 60 quality control certificates covering 7682 components delivered between 2003 and 2012. The majority of the parts were installed at Hanbit (Yonggwang) units 5 and 6, while the rest were used at Hanbit units 3 and 4 and Hanul (Ulchin) unit 3. Hanbit units were taken offline while the parts were replaced.

"Then in May 2013 safety-related control cabling with falsified documentation was found to have been installed at four reactors. The NSSC [Nuclear Safety and Security Commission] ordered KHNP immediately to stop operation of its Shin Kori 2 and Shin Wolsong 1 units and to keep Shin Kori 1, which has been offline for scheduled maintenance, shut down. In addition, the newly-constructed Shin Wolsong 2, which was awaiting approval to start commercial operation, could not start up. All would remain closed until the cabling has been replaced, which was expected to take about four months. Shin Kori 1&2 and Shin Wolsong 1 were cleared to restart in January 2014. Completion of Shin Kori 3&4 was delayed, to 2015, due to the need to replace control cabling which failed tests. In October 2013 about 100 people were indicted for their part in the falsification of documentation."

The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety states:5

  • A total of 2,114 test reports were falsified: 247 test reports in relation to replaced parts for 23 reactors, an additional 944 falsifications in relation to 'items' for three recently commissioned reactors, and 923 falsifications in relation to 'items' for five reactors under construction.
  • Results were 'unidentified' for an additional 3,408 test reports ‒ presumably it was impossible to assess whether or not the reports were falsified.
  • Twenty-nine of the forgeries concerned 'seismic qualification', with the legitimacy of a further 43 seismic reports 'unclear'.
  • Over 7,500 reactor parts were replaced in the aftermath of the scandal.

Safety-related equipment was installed on the basis of falsified documentation, and according to a whistleblower, equipment had actually failed under Loss-Of-Coolant-Accident conditions during at least one concealed test.6

The situation in Korea was much the same as that in Japan prior to the Fukushima disaster ‒ except that Japan's corrupt nuclear establishment is known as the 'nuclear village'7 whereas South Korea's corrupt nuclear establishment is known as the 'nuclear mafia'.8

A 2014 parliamentary audit revealed that the temporary suspension of the operations of nuclear power plants after the scandal caused the loss of 10 trillion won (US$8.9 billion).9 It also led to power shortages that contributed to growing public opposition to the nuclear industry.

Nuclear lobbyist Will Davis wrote this summary of the scandals in 2014:10

"Electing for brevity, suffice it to say that various schemes to advance the position of persons or companies in the South Korean nuclear industry have resulted in substandard parts being employed (particularly cable supplied by JS Cable, a company that is presently being liquidated), false quality assurance certificates being filed, and various collusion/bribery schemes among varied personnel at contractors and in the KHNP universe of subsidiaries ‒ with involvement reaching even to the highest (former) executives.

"While the true extent and nature of these corrupt activities began to be illuminated only at the end of 2011, in fact the activities stretched far prior; a recent article in the Korea Herald noted that JS Cable failed to obtain certification for nuclear parts for its product twice in 2004, and then somehow immediately made a sale of such equipment for a total of 5.5 billion won (US$5.06 million). That cabling was eventually found to be defective when it triggered shutdowns at two nuclear plants, in May 2013. Many corporate offices (including those of KHNP) were raided throughout the summer, and many arrests made ‒ arrests that included a former president of KHNP.

"Much more than cable from one company has been implicated; implicated parts (questionable parts, or questionable certifications, or both) were thought to possibly be in service at as many as 11 nuclear plants in South Korea. A massive program to find all such parts and associated companies and persons was launched and pressed with a vigor and aggression not normally seen in industrially related investigations."

The corruption also affected South Korea's reactor construction project in the United Arab Emirates.11 Hyundai Heavy Industries employees offered bribes to KHNP officials in charge of the supply of parts for reactors to be exported to the UAE.

The New York Times reported in August 2013 that despite the government's pledge to ban parts suppliers found to have falsified documents from bidding again for 10 years, KHNP imposed only a six-month penalty for such suppliers.12 The New York Times continued: "And nuclear opponents say that more fundamental changes are needed in the regulatory system, pointing out that one of the government’s main regulating arms, the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety, gets 60 percent of its annual budget from Korea Hydro."12

Worse still, a 2014 parliamentary audit revealed that some officials fired from KEPCO E&C (Korea Electric Power Corporation Engineering and Construction) over the scandals were rehired.9

The scandal was still on the boil in 2014. Korea Times reported on 25 June 2014:8

"The government has discovered irregularities yet again that could threaten the safety of nuclear reactors. This time, the perpetrators are parts suppliers that presented fake quality certificates in the course of replacing antiquated parts used in nuclear power plants. Six state testing facilities were also found to have failed to conduct adequate tests before issuing certificates. A two-month audit of the six testing facilities by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy showed that 39 quality certificates presented by 24 companies were fabricated. ...

"Most disheartening in the latest revelation of irregularities is that the state-run certifiers failed to detect fabrications by skipping the required double-testing. ... Given the magnitude of corruption in the nuclear industry arising from its intrinsic nature of being closed, the first step toward safety should be to break the deep-seated food chain created by the so-called nuclear mafia, which will help enhance transparency ultimately. With the prosecution set to investigate the suppliers, the certifiers will face business suspension. But it's imperative to toughen penalties for them, considering that light punitive measures have stood behind the lingering corruption in the nuclear industry. "

Opposition to South Korea's corrupt 'nuclear mafia' feeds into broader concerns about corruption. Japan Times reported on 10 May 2017: "Opinion polls taken just before the election showed that the top concern for the country’s voters was “deep-rooted corruption" and a desire to promote reform; second on that list was economic revival. If Moon is to succeed in those tasks, he must tackle the chaebol, the huge industrial conglomerates that dominate the South Korean economy and have outsized influence in its politics."13

Japan's corrupt 'nuclear village' survived the political fallout of the Fukushima disaster and is back in charge.14 It would be naïve to imagine that the tepid response to South Korea's scandals has done away with the nuclear mafia once and for all.


1. Nuclear Monitor #765, 1 Aug 2013, 'South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens',

2. Nuclear Monitor #771, 2 Nov 2013, 'South Korea indicts 100 people over safety scandals',

3. Nuclear Monitor #765, 1 Aug 2013, 'South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens',

4. World Nuclear Association, Feb 2017, 'Nuclear Power in South Korea',

5. Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety,

6. Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al., 2016, World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016, or direct download:

7. Friends of the Earth, March 2012, 'Japan's Nuclear Scandals and the Fukushima Disaster',

8. Korea Times, 25 June 2016, 'Fake certificates again',

9. Se Young Jang, 8 Oct 2015, 'The Repercussions of South Korea’s Pro-Nuclear Energy Policy',

10. Will Davis, 6 Feb 2014, 'South Korea nuclear power: Are the dark times over?',

11. Choi Kyong-ae, 12 Jan 2014, 'Hyundai Heavy vows to root out corruption',

12. Choe Sang-hun, 3 Aug 2013, 'Scandal in South Korea Over Nuclear Revelations',

13. Japan Times, 10 May 2017, 'The pendulum swings in South Korea',

14. Nuclear Monitor #800, 19 March 2015, 'Japan's 'nuclear village' reasserting control',

Is South Korea's nuclear industry a model for others to follow?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

As the nuclear power crisis has unfolded in recent months ‒ engulfing major nuclear companies and utilities in the US, Japan and France ‒ South Korea's nuclear industry has been held up as a model for others to follow. US nuclear lobbyist Michael Shellenberger, for example, explains 'why Korea won': "Korea is winning the global competition to build new nuclear plants against China and Russia despite being a fraction of the size, at just 50 million people, and energy-poor. It has done so through focus: standard design, standard construction of plants, standard operation and standard regulation."1

But South Korea's nuclear industry is scandal-plagued, it hasn't won any bids to build reactors overseas since 2009, and it is more than a stretch to describe it as "world class" as nuclear advocate Rod Adams would have you believe.2 Public and political support has been in freefall over the past five years because of the Fukushima disaster and a domestic nuclear corruption scandal (see the following article in this issue of the Nuclear Monitor). In the coming years, nuclear power's contribution to domestic electricity supply is likely to decline and there is little likelihood that an export industry will flourish. Moreover, with public support for the nuclear industry in freefall, the government has little hope of achieving its aim of securing a site for a high-level nuclear waste repository by 2028.

Korea Times noted on April 21 that every major candidate in South Korea's presidential election promised to stop building new nuclear reactors and to close down older ones.3 The winner of the May 9 presidential election, Moon Jae-in, who stood as the candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea, is a former human rights lawyer. World Nuclear News reported that Moon was one of seven presidential candidates who signed an agreement in March for a "common policy" to phase out nuclear power.4 During the election campaign, Moon said he would scrap plans for new reactors ‒ including Shin Kori units 5 and 6 ‒ while immediately closing the Wolsong-1 reactor.4 (In February 2017, the Seoul Administrative Court ordered the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission to cancel its decision to extend the lifespan of Wolsong-1 because legal procedures had not been followed in the decision-making process.) Moon also said he would block lifespan extensions for the older reactors at the Kori plant5 ‒ the four Kori reactors were grid-connected between 1977 and 1985.

Moon said during the election campaign that he believes South Korea will have to phase out all of its remaining nuclear power plants over the next 40 years or so.3 "I will make South Korea build no more nuclear reactors and close down aged nuclear reactors when their lifespan expire," Moon said. "Through this, South Korea can arrive at nuclear zero in 2060, and until then, we can develop alternative sources."2

Kim Jwa-kwan, head of Moon's energy policy team, said after the election that the target is to reduce reliance on nuclear power from the current 30% down to 18% by 2030.6 Kim also reaffirmed Moon's pre-election pledge to scrap the planned Shin Kori 5 and 6 reactors.

The 18% target is a huge drop from previous targets. It is less than one-third of the 2030 target of 59% announced by Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) in 2011 and well short of the 2035 target of 29% announced by the former government in 2013.7

South Korea has 25 'operational' reactors, three under construction, and a further eight are planned according to the World Nuclear Association.8 In the aftermath of the presidential election, the reactors under construction are in doubt and the prospects for the eight planned reactors are dim. Nuclear power generation and capacity has steadily increased since the 1980s but nuclear's percentage of total electricity generation has fallen sharply, from 45% in 2005 to 30% today.9

President Moon Jae-in is also taking steps to reduce the reliance on coal and to boost renewables. For a month in June 2017, eight aging coal-fired power plants will stop operations. From next year, 10 old coal plants will be shut from March to June when electricity demand is relatively low, and the government plans to close them permanently during Moon's five-year presidency.10 The government plans to reduce reliance on coal for power generation from 43% to 25% by 2030 ‒ although an increase in gas-fired power production is also planned.6

Moon said during the election campaign that he would aim to raise the proportion of electricity generated from renewables to 20% by 2030. Plans will take shape at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, which releases its eighth annual report later this year.11

Declining public support

A 2005 IAEA-commissioned survey of 18 countries found that only in South Korea was there majority support for new reactors.12 But in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and South Korea's nuclear corruption scandal, public support has tanked:

  • In 2010, the proportion of South Koreans who considered nuclear power safe was 71% but that number halved to 35% in 2012 according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. Reuters reported: "The ministry has been sharply criticized for its role as regulator and operator of the country's nuclear power plants, and one of its subsidiaries was accused of suppressing negative public opinion after the Fukushima disaster by not publishing polls."13
  • Likewise, 64% of respondents to a May 2014 survey by the Korea Nuclear Energy Promotion Agency said they consider domestic reactors unsafe, up from 56% in March 2013.14
  • A May 2011 survey found 61% opposition to nuclear power in South Korea and 68% opposition to new reactors.15
  • A 2013 poll found that 65.6% percent of respondents were willing to pay higher electricity prices if it meant fewer nuclear power plants.16
  • Korea Nuclear Energy Agency polling in 2015 found that only 30% favored more nuclear power, compared to 51% in 2009.17
  • A 2015 poll in Yeongdeok, designated as a nuclear power plant site by the government in 2012, found that opposition to the proposed nuclear plant (62%) doubled support (31%).16,17
  • A local referendum in October 2014 in Samcheok City, Gangwon Province, resulted in 85% of voters opposing the national government's plan for a new power reactor in the region.18
  • All political candidates in the June 2014 elections in Busan, the closest major city to the Kori nuclear plant, called for the closure of unit 1, which has been plagued with safety issues.7

In February 2015, Nuclear Intelligence Weekly reported that South Korea's anti-nuclear movement has grown and diversified since the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and gained momentum because of the safety / corruption scandals: "Before the Fukushima disaster, the movement was largely limited to environmental groups and people living near nuclear facilities, who focused on opposing newbuild and radioactive waste disposal sites. Since then it has been joined by consumer groups and women’s associations that are concerned about radioactive contamination in food and other products; religious bodies ‒ mainly Catholic groups and Buddhists; and left-wing political organizations and labor unions that criticize the government’s expansionary nuclear policies."19

Concerns about Fukushima were reawakened in September 2016 when two big earthquakes hit the south-eastern part of South Korea, resulting in the temporary shutdown of four power reactors.20

South Korea's nuclear exports

South Korea's nuclear export industry ought to be the big winner from the deep troubles facing competitors such as Toshiba, Westinghouse and the French utilities EDF and Areva. Some hope that South Korea's Kepco will take a share in bankrupt Westinghouse. That would theoretically open up a range of export options for South Korea: it would give it a toe-hold in the US, Kepco might pursue the stalled plan for six AP1000 reactors in India, and so on.

Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd recently argued that the UK nuclear new-build program should have been put out to tender with the winner building 15 or so identical reactors.21 He misses the irony that if that happened a decade ago, the likely winner would have been now-bankrupt Westinghouse. If a similar UK tender was established now, Kidd argues, South Korea would be the likely winner.

In any case, while Kepco may be interested in buying into the NuGen project to build three reactors at Moorside in the UK, Kepco president Cho Hwan-eik was unequivocal in his comments in March 2017 about buying a stake in Westinghouse: "We have no plan to acquire Toshiba's stake [in Westinghouse] ... there is no role for us there".22 Moreover, discussions about Kepco buying into NuGen date from 2013 if not earlier, yet nothing has been agreed.23 And South Korean involvement in NuGen might be affected by the recent election of Moon Jae-in as president.

In 2010, South Korea's Ministry of Knowledge Economy (now the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy) stated that it aimed to achieve exports of 80 nuclear power reactors worth US$400 billion by 2030.24 Yet as the Financial Times noted in February 2017, that objective is now viewed as "wildly ambitious" and South Korea hasn't won a single bid to build reactors since 2009, when it secured the contract to build four reactors in the United Arab Emirates.25 South Korea has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with at least 27 countries24 but those agreements aren't leading to reactor supply contracts.

South Korea's nuclear cooperation agreement with South Africa was ruled to be illegal by a recent South African High Court ruling. South Korea hoped to export reactors to Vietnam, but Vietnam cancelled its nuclear program last year. South Korea's attempts to get into the Indian nuclear market have come to nothing.24,26 South Korea's plan to build 'SMART' small reactors in Saudi Arabia has an air of unreality about it since no other country ‒ including South Korea itself ‒ has built such a reactor (and it's not hard to imagine the new political leadership in South Korea revisiting the wisdom of selling nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia given the Kingdom's open interest in developing nuclear weapons). The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been slowly assessing South Korea's APR1400 reactor design but even if that review is completed and successful, there is no prospect of new reactors in the US for the foreseeable future. And on it goes ... South Korea has been in discussions with Indonesia and Malaysia but neither country is likely to pursue nuclear power in the foreseeable future.

A detailed 2015 Brookings Institution paper concluded: "Some of the countries that South Korea is targeting for its nuclear exports are in the early stages of planning nuclear power programs, whereas others are more advanced. Given the poor financial condition of some of these countries and their lack of any kind of nuclear infrastructure, it is far from certain that the ambitious nuclear power programs of many of these countries will be realized."24

The recent presidential election won't help South Korea's nuclear export industry. Ongoing domestic experience building reactors is the strongest foundation for an export industry yet plans for new reactors in South Korea will likely be shelved. Nuclear lobbyist Rod Adams said Moon Jae-in "might single-handedly reverse the progress that the Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCO) has achieved in learning how to build large nuclear plants. If the country stops building reactors at home, it will have substantially more difficulty maintaining its ability to successfully export the technology."2 Adams further noted that exporting nuclear power plants "requires substantial up-front financial support from the vendor and its home government"27 but that financial support is now in jeopardy in the wake of the election result.

South Korea's APR1400 reactor design

South Korea's APR1400 reactor design ‒ its version of long-established pressurized water reactor technology ‒ might be a good fit in the context of the deep troubles facing Toshiba, Westinghouse and the French nuclear utilities. Those troubles demonstrate the need to cut nuclear costs and if that means sacrificing safety, so be it. Steve Thomas noted in a 2014 paper that Korean authorities acknowledge that the APR1400 would not meet US or European requirements, particularly on aircraft crash protection and, for Europe, a core-catcher.28

Anne Lauvergeon, the CEO of Areva when the French utility lost its bid to build reactors in the UAE, was scathing about Korea's winning APR1400 design. Nucleonics Week reported: "She mentioned in particular that EPR's containment was designed to withstand the crash of a large jet aircraft and had a provision to prevent molten corium from penetrating the reactor basemat if the core melted through the reactor vessel. She likened the Korean reactor ‒ which she said had neither such feature ‒ to 'a car without airbags and safety belts.'"29

There is hardly any operating experience with APR1400 reactors. Only one is operating ‒ Shin Kori #3 in South Korea ‒ and that reactor only began commercial operation in December 2016. Three other APR1400 reactors are under construction in South Korea, and four in the UAE.30

The safety and forgery scandal that first emerged in 2012 has delayed the APR1400 projects in South Korea. Rod Adams wrote in Forbes: "That reactor [Shin Kori #3], the world's first APR1400 was initially scheduled to begin operating in 2013 and to be in commercial service by mid to late 2014. That plan was perturbed when inspectors in Korea found substandard control and safety system cabling installed in a number of Korean nuclear plants. The investigation eventually revealed that Shin Kori unit 3 had out-of-specification cables installed. The complete cycle of discovery, corrective action determination and cable replacement delayed the commercial operation of Shin Kori unit 3 by more than two years."31

And the delays in South Korea have delayed completion of the APR1400 reactors in the UAE.32

The completion of four APR1000 reactors on-time and on-budget in the UAE is held up by nuclear lobbyists to be one of the industry's best good-news stories. But the reactors may not be completed on time and precious little credible information is available on the cost of the reactors and where the funding is coming from. The 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report pulled together available information:7

"At the time of the contract signing in December 2009, with Korean Electric Power Corp., the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC), said that “the contract for the construction, commissioning and fuel loads for four units equaled approximately US$20 billion, with a high percentage of the contract being offered under a fixed-price arrangement". The original financing plan for the project was thought to include US$10 billion from the Export Import Bank of Korea, US$2 billion from the Ex-Im Bank of the U.S., US$6 billion from the government of Abu Dhabi, and US$2 billion from commercial banks. However, it is unclear what other financing sources have been used for the project, and it is reported that the cost of the project has risen significantly, with the total cost of the plant including infrastructure and finance now expected to be about US$32 billion, with others putting the cost of the contracts at US$40 billion, including fuel management and operation, although little independent information is available."

Security and proliferation

Jungmin Kang and Frank von Hippel, writing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on 15 May 2017, argue that the new political leadership in South Korea should cancel an R&D project into pyroprocessing and fast reactors:33

"One of the first orders of business for South Korea’s new political leadership should be the review of a plan ‒ developed and promoted relentlessly by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) ‒ to reprocess South Korea’s spent nuclear fuel to recover its plutonium and other transuranic elements for fueling sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactors. KAERI’s scheme would saddle the country with a hugely costly, dangerous, and futile nuclear enterprise. ...

"KAERI and the ministry that funds it have been promoting pyroprocessing as a technology that could reduce the volume of high-level radioactive waste requiring deep disposal by a factor of up to 20, the area required for geologic disposal by a factor of up to 100, and the toxicity of the radioactive waste by up to a factor of 1,000, relative to spent fuel. All these claims are false. Pyroprocessing is not a dream technology that can solve South Korea’s spent-fuel problem. It is a costly detour to nowhere."

If South Korea abandoned its reprocessing and fast reactors plans, that might make it somewhat easier to convince Japan and China to abandon their reprocessing plans and to stop the vicious cycle of proliferation of dual-use technologies in north-east Asia.34

Another task for the new political leadership is to address the vulnerability of nuclear plants to military strikes, all the more important in the context of heightened tensions with North Korea. Yonhap News reported on 16 May 2017 that a report by KHNP noted that South Korea's power reactors have not been designed to deal with military attacks ‒ the outer protective walls were not designed to withstand a missile strike or other forms of concerted attacks.35

Kim Jong-hoon, a parliamentarian representing the conservative Liberty Korea Party, said that Seoul was several years behind the US in coming up with safety measures to deal with military and terrorist attacks. "The fact that the country has not taken action in the past is a serious lapse, especially with North Korea's evolving missile threats," Kim said.35


1. Michael Shellenberger, 13 Feb 2017, 'Why its Big Bet on Westinghouse Nuclear is Bankrupting Toshiba',

2. Rod Adams, 12 April 2017, 'Republic Of Korea May Decide To Reign In Its World Class Nuclear Industry',

3. Jung Min-ho, 21 April 2017, 'Future of nuclear energy bleak in Korea',

4. World Nuclear News, 10 May 2017,

5. World Nuclear News, 11 April 2017,

6. Jane Chung / Reuters, 18 May 2017, 'S.Korea coal, nuclear power targeted for cuts by presidential candidates',

7. Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al., 2016, World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016, or direct download:


9. IAEA,

10. Korea Times, 16 May 2017, 'Shutdown of coal plants',

11. Shim Woo-hyun, 10 May 2017, 'Moon Jae-in to push for renewable energy policies',

12. Globescan, 2005, ‘Global Public Opinion on Nuclear Issues and the IAEA: Final report from 18 countries’, prepared for the IAEA, p.19,

13. Reuters, 7 Jan 2013, 'South Korea to expand nuclear energy despite growing safety fears',

14. Heesu Lee, 15 Jan 2015, 'Fukushima Meltdowns Pervade S. Korea Debate on Reactor Life',

15. IPSOS, 2011, 'Global Citizen Reaction to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster',

16. Se Young Jang, 8 Oct 2015, 'The Repercussions of South Korea’s Pro-Nuclear Energy Policy',

17. Toby Dalton and Minkyeong Cha, 23 Feb 2016, 'South Korea’s Nuclear Energy Future',

18. Takano Satoshi, Jan./Feb. 2015, 'Samcheok, South Korea, holds “genuine” local referendum on new NPP', Nuke Info Tokyo, No. 164,

19. Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, 27 Feb 2015, 'South Korea: Anti-Nuclear Movement Grows and Widens', Vol. IX, No. 9,

20. Matthew Bell, 11 May 2017, 'South Korean Catholics take the lead in protesting against nuclear power',

21. Steve Kidd, 9 May 2017, 'The UK nuclear programme – does it make any sense?',

22. Song Jung-a in, 22 March 2017, 'Kepco rules out buying Westinghouse stake',

23. Guy Chazan, 20 Nov 2013, 'Scandal-hit Korean group makes UK nuclear bid',

24. Robert Einhorn, Fred F. McGoldrick, James L. Tyson, and Duyeon Kim, 16 Jan 2015, 'ROK-U.S. Civil Nuclear and Nonproliferation Collaboration in Third Countries',

25. Kana Inagaki, Leo Lewis and Ed Crooks, 15 Feb 2017, 'Downfall of Toshiba, a nuclear industry titan',
26. Anirban Bhaumik, 12 Jan 2014, 'New Delhi wary of nuclear cooperation with Seoul',

27. Stephen Stapczynski, 16 May 2017, 'New South Korean President Seen Hindering Nuclear Ambitions',

28. Steve Thomas, July 2014, 'Nuclear technology options for South Africa',

29. Nucleonics Week, 22 April 2010, ‘No core catcher, double containment for UAE reactors, South Koreans say’,

30. 22 May 2017, 'APR-1400',

31. Rod Adams, 4 May 2017, 'Delayed Start Up At Shin Kori Unit 3 In South Korea Delays Barakah Unit 1 Start Up In UAE',

32. Reuters, 4 May 2017, 'UAE delays launch of first nuclear power reactor ‒ source',

33. Jungmin Kang and Frank von Hippel, 15 May 2017, 'Reprocessing policy and South Korea’s new government',

34. Fumihiko Yoshida, 30 June 2016, Confronting plutonium nationalism in Northeast Asia,

35. Yonhap News, 16 April 2017, 'S. Korea's nuclear power reactors not designed to deal with military attacks',

Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #838 - 21 February 2017

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Banning nuclear weapons in 2017

In one of its final acts of 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution to begin negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts. The new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons will strengthen the global norms against using and possessing these weapons. It will spur long-overdue progress towards disarmament.

Eliminating the nuclear threat has been high on the UN agenda since the organisation’s formation in 1945. But international efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the build-up and modernisation of their nuclear arsenals. More than 20 years have passed since multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations took place.

Experience shows that the prohibition of a particular type of weapons provides a solid legal and political foundation for advancing its elimination. Weapons that are outlawed are increasingly seen as illegitimate, losing their political status, and, along with it, the resources for their production, modernisation and retention.

The treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons will complement existing bans on other indiscriminate and inhumane weapons, and reinforce existing legal instruments on nuclear weapons, such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, regional nuclear-weapon-free zones, and the treaty banning nuclear test explosions. It will strengthen the global taboo against the use and possession of nuclear weapons.

Negotiations on the treaty will begin on March 27 for one week, continuing for another three weeks in June-July. This breakthrough in nuclear disarmament negotiations has come about in the wake of three conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. A growing global movement of nations are ready to declare nuclear weapons illegal for all. The negotiations are open to all, and blockable by none.

Contact your Foreign Minister and urge your Government to participate constructively in the upcoming negotiations. It’s time to make nuclear weapons illegal.

‒ Gem Romuld

Forest occupation, protests and attacks on the CIGEO nuclear research laboratory in Bure, northeast France

Autonomous Bure Media Collective:

Saturday 18 February ‒ Anti-nuclear protest actions took place today in Bure, northeast France. First a demo in the forest to support its occupation and then at the planned CIGEO nuclear research laboratory. Part of the wall illegally erected in the forest by ANDRA, the French national radioactive waste management agency, was more or less symbolically broken down.

More than 700 people took part in the February 2017 action says in Bure, peaking in the late afternoon today with fierce clashes and massive attacks. For more than a year resistance by the anti-nuclear movement has obstructed CIGEO's dump project. Despite forced evictions, wall construction and juridical attacks and counter-attacks, the occupation is holding and protest against the project is growing, including beyond the region. In recent days there have been manifestations of solidarity in other towns – hundreds of people came to today's action.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays there have been night actions and attacks on the laboratory and its greenwashing department, causing considerable damage to the barriers, which were partly replaced by razor wire. This afternoon a large force of cops prevented an advance right to the buildings. But during a battle lasting several hours, large parts of the remaining fence, reinforcement materials, dead trees and much more were expertly assembled into barricades. Whereas the cops almost incessantly hurled tear-gas and dispersion grenades, for more than two hours many determined protesters attacked the lackeys of nuclear capital. Several people were injured on both sides and there were at least three arrests.

In the coming week and during this spring several decisive court cases are slated. Support the forest squat, dare to come to Bure! Prevent the atomic loo in Bure, break atom firms everywhere!

South Korea: Wolsong NPP lifespan extension cancelled

On February 7, the Seoul Administrative Court cancelled the decision of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) to extend the lifespan of Wolsong-1, the second oldest reactor in Korea. Wolsong-1 was supposed to be shut down in 2012 when it reached its design life of 30 years. However, NSSC approved a lifespan extension in Feb. 2015 so that it could operate to 2022.

2166 people, including civil society and local people living close to nuclear power plants, filed a petition to have the lifespan extension invalidated. After 12 trials in total, on-the-spot investigation, and witness examination, it has been confirmed that the lifespan extension permit for Wolsong-1 is improper and should be cancelled. The NSSC shortly after announced its plan to appeal the ruling and will keep operating Wolsong-1 during the appeals process.

The delegates of plaintiffs presented diverse evidence that the NSSC didn't submit a comparison chart showing the facilities and parts before and after the change, did not apply the latest technology standard in the safety assessment, and made a decision which involved two members disqualified from the commission.

The Korea Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM) demands the suspension of operation of Wolsong-1 and for the resignation of the chair of the NSSC. KFEM executive director Yang Yi Won-young said the Court ruling "clearly shows that the NSSC has arbitrarily applied related law without any consideration for public safety while giving out too many permits to expand lifespan of old nuclear power plants and build new ones with the nuclear industry, that is Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power."

‒ Hye Lyn Kim

EDF and decentralised energy

Les Echos, the French business newspaper, carried an extraordinary article from a Senior Vice President of EDF, the largely state-owned French utility that will build the nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in England. Mark Boillot contends that 'large nuclear or thermal power plants designed to function as baseload are challenged by the more flexible decentralized model'. He says that the centralised model of power production is dying, to be replaced by local solar and wind, supplemented by batteries and intelligent management of supply and demand. Not only will this be cheaper in the long run but customers are actually prepared to pay more for solar electricity and actively work to reduce usage at times of shortage. His conclusion is that 'the traditional model must adapt to the new realities, thus allowing the utilities to emerge from ... hypercentralized structures in a world that is becoming more and more decentralized'. In most jurisdictions Mr Boillot would have been asked to clear his desk. What will EDF do about one of its most senior people openly forecasting the end of the large power station as it tries to raise the ten billion euros necessary to pay for its share of Hinkley?

‒ Carbon Commentary Newsletter, 19 Feb 2017,

‒ Les Echos article:

Reprocessing and plutonium stockpiling in East Asia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

"Reprocessing provides the strongest link between commercial nuclear power and proliferation."

– US Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 'Nuclear proliferation and safeguards', June 1977.

U.S. Republican candidate Donald Trump recently said that he would support a decision by Japan to build nuclear weapons. "You may very well be better off if that's the case," Trump said. "In other words, where Japan is defending itself against North Korea, which is a real problem. You very well may have a better case right there."1

Trump's comments were criticized both in Japan and in the U.S. But the position of successive U.S. governments has also been highly problematic ‒ publicly criticizing Japan's stockpiling of ever-greater amounts of separated plutonium and voicing concern about Japan's plan to start up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant ... but doing absolutely nothing about those problems.

Japan continues to expand its stockpile of 48 tonnes of separated plutonium (10.8 tonnes in Japan, 20.7 tonnes in the UK and 16.3 tonnes in France) and it continues to advance plans to start up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in 2018. Rokkasho would result in an additional eight tonnes of separated plutonium annually.

The U.S. has a long history of publicly and privately voicing concern about Japan's plutonium stockpiling, and an equally long history of inaction. Diplomatic cables in 1993 and 1994 from US Ambassadors in Tokyo described Japan's accumulation of plutonium as "massive" and questioned the rationale for the stockpiling of so much plutonium since it appeared to be economically unjustified.2

A March 1993 diplomatic cable from US Ambassador Armacost in Tokyo to Secretary of State Warren Christopher, obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, posed these questions: "Can Japan expect that if it embarks on a massive plutonium recycling program that Korea and other nations would not press ahead with reprocessing programs? Would not the perception of Japan's being awash in plutonium and possessing leading edge rocket technology create anxiety in the region?"2

At the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, U.S. President Obama said: "We simply can't go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we're trying to keep away from terrorists."3

In 2014, a U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration report noted that "global civilian plutonium inventories have risen sharply over the last 20 years" and that "further international engagement is needed to stop plutonium accumulation and start drawing down inventories."4

The Communiqué of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, endorsed by 53 nations, stated: "We encourage States to minimise their stocks of HEU [highly enriched uranium] and to keep their stockpile of separated plutonium to the minimum level, both as consistent with national requirements."5

In 2014, with no hint of irony, a joint US/Japan statement announcing the plan to send some HEU and separated plutonium from the Fast Critical Assembly at Tokai to the U.S. concluded: "Our two countries encourage others to consider what they can do to further HEU and plutonium minimization."6 The amount of plutonium held at Tokai was 331 kg, yet Japan plans to separate 8,000 kg of plutonium every year at Rokkasho.

Ahead of the recently-concluded 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, the U.S. government was once again making strong statements about reprocessing and plutonium stockpiling. In mid-March, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman, who heads the State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that reprocessing "has little if any economic justification" and raises proliferation concerns.7

Countryman said "there are genuine economic questions where it is important that the US and its partners in Asia have a common understanding of the economic and nonproliferation issues at stake before making a decision about renewal of the 123 [civilian nuclear cooperation] agreement, for example, with Japan."8

Countryman focused his criticisms on moves by China, Japan and South Korea to develop reprocessing programs while also expressing blanket opposition to civil reprocessing programs: "I would be very happy to see all countries get out of the plutonium reprocessing business."9

Countryman said the U.S. has raised with France its concerns about the dynamics in Asia. France's Areva is heavily involved in the reprocessing plans in both China and Japan.7

Japan's bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S. expires in 2018. The current agreement, which will remain in force beyond 2018 unless amended, does nothing to curb or prevent Japan's plutonium stockpiling or its reprocessing plans.10

Washington could apply constraints to Japan's plutonium stockpiling and reprocessing insofar as it involves U.S.-obligated nuclear materials. But that seems highly unlikely. An indication of the realpolitik came in late March when Thomas Countryman, presumably pressured by higher-ups, reversed his earlier statements. Countryman 2.0 claimed that Japan's reprocessing plans and plutonium stockpiling do not raise proliferation concerns and that no other country was closer or more important as a partner to the U.S. than Japan.11

Nuclear commentator Dan Yurman suggests the whole thing was a set-up: "On one hand, the first round of comments by Countryman appear to address China's concerns about Japan's [plutonium] stockpile. China's delegation to the Nuclear Security Summit was led by Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China. On the other, the state department official's reversal appears to also appease the Japanese delegation which undoubtedly did not take kindly to having such a direct set of remarks expressed ahead of their visit to Washington."12

South Korea

Washington and Seoul came to an agreement last year which continues the prohibition on domestic reprocessing in South Korea while permitting research into pyroprocessing ‒ separating fission products from spent fuel, leaving plutonium mixed with other actinides.13

Pyroprocessing is promoted as a proliferation-resistant alternative to conventional reprocessing. But it can also be a stepping-stone to weapons-usable material. South Korea's Chosun Media quotes a nuclear engineering professor saying that "if spent fuel is first reprocessed using pyroprocessing and then dissolved using nitric acid ‒ which is the typical method ‒ then it is possible to obtain more fissile material in a shorter amount of time."14

In a country with reprocessing, a switch to pyroprocessing would be a stepping-stone to non-proliferation. In a country without reprocessing ‒ such as South Korea ‒ pyroprocessing is a stepping-stone to proliferation.

Washington has been more proactive in its negotiations with South Korea than it has been with Japan. But Washington's refusal to do anything about Japan's reprocessing plans and plutonium stockpiling creates a double-standard which is near-impossible to maintain. Christopher Hill, a former American ambassador to Seoul, said in 2013: "If the Koreans are left with the impression that Japan can do things that South Korea can't, then it's not a sustainable concept."15

Proliferation expert Henry Sokolski notes that those South Koreans who want a nuclear weapons option as a countermeasure against North Korea "complain that Washington has authorized Japan, America's other East Asian security ally, to reprocess spent US-origin fuel (fuel made in the United States but burned in reactors in Japan) to produce plutonium. This grates on Seoul, given the historical enmity between Japan and South Korea. Washington has yet to grant South Korea similar recycling rights."16

Shortly after North Korea's nuclear weapon test on January 6, leaders of the South Korean National Assembly's ruling party publicly urged President Park Geun-hye to consider reprocessing fuel from nuclear power plants to extract plutonium, as a hedge against North Korea's nuclear weapons program.16

Elsewhere, the U.S. established a 'gold standard' with a bilateral agreement with the United Arab Emirates which prohibits enrichment and reprocessing in the UAE. But the U.S. then abandoned the 'gold standard' and is now willing to conclude nuclear trade agreements with (at most) voluntary, unenforceable commitments to forego enrichment and reprocessing.17

Of course, the U.S. is not the only country at fault. France could put international security and non-proliferation objectives ahead of commercial nuclear imperatives ... but that would be a first. Australia has its own unique way of pretending to be concerned about the security and proliferation risks associated with reprocessing and plutonium stockpiling, while ensuring that commercial imperatives and Big Power politics come first. Australia insists on prior consent before Australian-obligated nuclear material is reprocessed. So far, so good ‒ but Australia has never once invoked its right of veto to prohibit reprocessing, even when it leads to plutonium stockpiling.

China's reprocessing plans

At an October 2015 session of the First Committee session of the U.N. General Assembly, China criticized Japan's reprocessing plans, noting that Japan has enough plutonium to produce a large number of nuclear weapons, and that some Japanese advocate weapons production.10

But China doesn't bring a great deal of moral authority to the debate. An editorial in the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said: "China criticizes Japan for possessing enough plutonium 'to produce a large number of nuclear weapons.' Is China, which keeps the actual situation concerning its nuclear weapons secret and is reportedly enhancing its nuclear capability, in a position to criticize Japan?"9

Moreover China is planning to massively increase domestic reprocessing. China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) and Areva envisage a commercial-scale plant processing 800 tonnes of spent fuel annually, with capital costs of CNY 100 billion (US$15.4 billion, €13.8 billion).18

In mid-March, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker accused the Obama administration of encouraging reprocessing despite the concern over proliferation, pointing to the renegotiation of a nuclear cooperation agreement with China last year that allows the reprocessing of fuel from U.S.-designed reactors. "We're not calling for a plutonium time-out like we could have done," Corker said.7 Democratic Senator Ed Markey warned of a domino effect in East Asia, saying if Japan and China went ahead with their reprocessing plants, there would be pressure on South Korea to pursue its own reprocessing efforts, which wold in turn undermine efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.7

In Beijing, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz voiced concern about China's plans for its first commercial-scale reprocessing plant. He told the Wall Street Journal that China's recent announcement that it would press ahead with a reprocessing program "certainly isn't a positive in terms of non-proliferation" and that "we don't support large-scale reprocessing". Moniz continued: "I don't think in any way we've been coy about our arguments with all of our partners. We just see so many problems. It's just, on objective grounds, very difficult to understand."19

Areva didn't respond to a request from the Wall Street Journal for comment on Moniz's remarks and CNNC said its press officers weren't available.19

Mark Hibbs from Carnegie's Nuclear Policy Program said China's decision to pursue reprocessing couldn't be justified on economic grounds but China may be acting strategically, guaranteeing future fuel supply by recycling.19 In addition to reprocessing, Beijing plans to expand its limited MOX production capability (most likely with the involvement of Areva) to produce MOX fuel for light water reactors and possibly also fast reactors.18

Moreover there are reports that Beijing may attempt to emulate Russia's build-own-operate nuclear export model and that such an endeavor might be more practical or palatable if spent fuel from overseas reactors is taken back for reprocessing rather than direct disposal.20

Sokolski suggests a more sinister motivation:16

"If China builds and operates this plant, it plans to stockpile plutonium for 10 to 20 years ‒ ostensibly for advanced reactor fuel ‒ producing enough plutonium for between 15,000 and 30,000 bombs, roughly the number of weapons' worth of nuclear explosives that the United States or Russia could remilitarize if they weaponized the massive amounts of surplus nuclear weapons fuel in their respective stockpiles.

"This could be militarily significant. Currently, China's nuclear arsenal is believed to be only 200 to 400 weapons. Its surplus plutonium stockpile, moreover, is only large enough to produce some additional hundreds of bombs, and China lacks any working military plutonium production reactor. Would a Chinese commercial plutonium program serve as a work-around? This may not be China's intention now, but if tensions in the region increased, might this change? One has to hope not.

"What makes these civilian plutonium-recycling efforts all the more dubious is how little economic and technical sense they make. They are not only unnecessary to promote nuclear power or manage nuclear waste, but also clear money losers. Privately, Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean officials and other government advisers concede these points; publicly, they don't."


1. 26 March 2016, 'Transcript: Donald Trump Expounds on His Foreign Policy Views',


3. 26 March 2012, 'Remarks by President Obama at Hankuk University',

4. National Nuclear Security Administration, Global Threat Reduction Initiative, 3 Dec 2014, "Removal Program Overview",



7. Matthew Pennington / Associated Press, 17 March 2016, 'US official comes out strongly against major powers in East Asia pursuing nuclear reprocessing',

8. 17 March 2016, 'Reviewing the Administration's Nuclear Agenda ‒ Podcast',

9. 23 March 2016, 'Government needs to thoroughly explain nuclear fuel cycle project to U.S.',

10. 11 Feb 2016, 'US, others worried over Japan's plutonium stockpile',

11. Seima Oki, 29 March 2016, 'U.S. official changes stance on Japan's nuclear policy',

12. Dan Yurman, 2 April 2016, 'Nuclear Fuel News for 4/2/16',

13. 22 April 2015, 'S. Korea, US strike new civil nuclear deal',

14. Lee Young-Wan, 19 Feb 2016,

English translation posted at:

15. Jay Solomon and Miho Inada, 1 May 2013, 'Japan's Nuclear Plan Unsettles U.S.',

16. Henry Sokolski, 28 March 2016, 'Can East Asia avoid a nuclear explosive materials arms race?',

17. 23 Aug 2013, 'Sensitive nuclear technologies and US nuclear export agreements', Nuclear Monitor #766,

18. WNA, Feb 2016, 'China's Nuclear Fuel Cycle',

19. Brian Spegele, 17 March 2016, 'China's Plans to Recycle Nuclear Fuel Raise Concerns',

20. 27 Sept 2015, 'China to start reprocessing plant by 2030',

Small modular reactors: a chicken-and-egg situation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

According to James Conca, a nuclear enthusiast who writes for Forbes, the nuclear industry in the US is "abuzz" with the potential of small modular reactors (SMRs).1

Conca promotes pseudo-research from the 'Small Modular Reactor Research and Education Consortium', according to which a single SMR has the potential to result in US$892 million (€844m) in "direct economic benefits". In other words, the capital cost estimate is US$892 million. The Consortium estimates that the potential economic benefits from the establishment of an SMR construction business in the US could range from US$34−250 billion (€32.2−236.7b) or more.

Better grounded in reality is a report produced by Nuclear Energy Insider, drawing on interviews with more than 50 "leading specialists and decision makers". The report attempts to put a positive spin on the future development of SMRs, but an air of pessimism is all too apparent, even in the report's title: 'Small Modular Reactors: An industry in terminal decline or on the brink of a comeback?'2

Pessimism is also apparent in comments by the report's lead author, Kerr Jeferies: "From the outside it will seem that SMR development has hit a brick wall, but to lump the sector's difficulties together with the death of the so-called nuclear renaissance would be missing the point."3

In the US4:

  • Babcock & Wilcox has greatly reduced its investment in SMR development, despite receiving US$111 million (€105m) from the Department of Energy. B&W CEO Jim Ferland said that he sees the future of SMRS as "still being up in the air."
  • Westinghouse abandoned its SMR development program in February 2014.
  • Warren Buffet's MidAmerican Energy abandoned plans to build an SMR in Iowa after consumer groups prevailed in a legislative battle over 'construction work in progress' legislation that allows utilities to charge higher rates to cover reactor construction costs, even if the reactor is never built.
  • NuScale is the only company in the US with any forward momentum − it is aiming to submit documentation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2016 for design review.

Glenn George from KPMG recently discussed SMR development in the US with Nuclear Energy Insider: "I think that investors are in a wait-and-see mode regarding development of the SMR market. ... Investors will want to see SMR learning-curve effects, but a chicken-and-egg situation is at work: Decreased cost comes from production of multiple units over time, yet such production requires investment in the first place. So it's not surprising that, in the absence of commercial orders, Westinghouse and Babcock & Wilcox have slowed SMR development."5

Outside the US, just a few first-of-a-kind SMR projects are under construction − in Argentina (CAREM-25), Russia (KLT-40S) and China (HTR-PM).

The Nuclear Energy Insider report restates the familiar SMR rationale about mass production and streamlined supply chains bringing down costs. But it also calls into question the underlying logic: "SMR concepts face a real challenge in ensuring cost and energy efficiency. Making a power unit smaller also increases the need to have five, ten or even twelve modular reactors working in unison to create the same level of base load electricity as the large PWR's and fossil fuel plants they will replace. In reducing the size of reactor modules you also reduce the amount of thermal energy produced, if an SMR only has an energy efficiency of 30−40% then you require even further units to make up the shortfall."

The report also qualifies the usual SMR rhetoric about economies derived from mass factory production: "Factory assembly of small reactors is one of the core benefits of SMR's. They can be built off site in 'bulk', easily transported and then plugged into an infrastructure network promising a far quicker and cheaper alternative to large PWR's. However, in order to ensure a smooth transition from the drawing board to the construction site there are key questions to be faced in separating the expertise held in a reactor factory and the expertise required to install an SMR when it arrives on site. For an effective SMR supply chain to be developed it will need to be localized − despite the reactors being built off site, a great amount of the on-site infrastructure and materials will still require precision assembly."

If there was any remaining doubt that SMRs are not the 'game changer' they are so often portrayed to be, the report concludes: "Six decades of nuclear development have shown that nuclear energy can only be progressed if 'long-term' strategies are employed across the industry. In an economic climate where there are alternative energies offering far quicker returns on investment, clear questions need to raised and frank discussions held in order to ensure that SMR's do remain a realistic alternative for energy provision."

The report states that notwithstanding the "pervasive sense of pessimism" resulting from abandoned and scaled-back SMR programs, "we believe a more accurate picture is that 2014 has been a teething year, and that the SMR story hasn't even really begun."

Therein lies the problem − the story hasn't begun: no supply chains, no factories churning out identical reactors, and precious few customers. And another familiar problem that has long plagued the nuclear industry: a bewildering array of proposed designs.

SMR push in the UK

The UK has been bitten by the SMR bug. The National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has produced a feasibility study which argues that SMRs might eventually prove cheaper than large reactors, while also noting unresolved 'detailed technical challenges'. The House of Commons Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change has urged the government to spend public money to develop a demonstration SMR.6

Academics Gordon MacKerron and Philip Johnstone from the Sussex Energy Group write: "It [NNL] then suggests a potential UK market of between 7GW and 21GW in 2015, the latter number being frankly not credible under any conceivable circumstances. These hoped-for UK markets are also linked to the idea that the UK could become a major technological player in SMR technology, a view that seems tinged almost with fantasy, given that all significant SMR development to date has been outside the UK."6

South Korea's SMART reactor

South Korea may have found a model to unlock the potential of SMRs: collaboration with a repressive Middle Eastern state, extensive technology transfer, and if that fans proliferation risks and tensions in a volatile region, so be it.

On March 3, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) to carry out a three-year study to assess the feasibility of building two first-of-a-kind 'System Integrated Modular Advanced ReacTor' (SMART) reactors.7

SMART is a 100 MWe pressurized water reactor design which could be used for electricity generation and desalinization. The cost of building the first SMART reactor in Saudi Arabia is estimated at US$1 billion (€947m).7

Among other obstacles, the development of SMART technology has only lukewarm support from the South Korean government; it is no longer financially backed by Korea Electric Power Co. (Kepco); there is no intention to deploy SMART reactors in South Korea; and plans to build a demonstration plant in South Korea stalled.

South Korea launched 'SMART Power' on January 29 − an organisation tasked with marketing SMART technology overseas, conducting joint feasibility studies with interested customers, and continuing design work to make the reactor technology "more economically feasible".

KACARE says that SMART intellectual property rights will be co-owned and that, in addition to the construction of SMART reactors in Saudi Arabia, the two countries aim to commercialise the technology and to promote it world-wide.8

KACARE states: "Undisputedly, human capacity building for the production of nuclear power within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a national pursuit of paramount importance as it will essentially contribute to the sincerely devoted endeavors to devise a sustainable development future for Saudi generations."8

Failing that, the joint partnership − and the extensive technology transfer and training it entails − will take Saudi Arabia a long way down the path towards developing a latent nuclear weapons capability. Saudi officials have made no secret of the Kingdom's intention to pursue a weapons program if Iran's nuclear program is not constrained.9

Wall Street Journal reporters noted on March 11: "As U.S. and Iranian diplomats inched toward progress on Tehran's nuclear program last week, Saudi Arabia quietly signed its own nuclear-cooperation agreement with South Korea. That agreement, along with recent comments from Saudi officials and royals, is raising concerns on Capitol Hill and among U.S. allies that a deal with Iran, rather than stanching the spread of nuclear technologies, risks fueling it."10

A bilateral nuclear trade agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia has stalled because of the Kingdom's refusal to rule out developing enrichment or reprocessing technology. "We've been pressing them to agree not to pursue a civilian fuel cycle, but the Saudis refuse," said Gary Samore, a US government official working on nuclear issues during President Obama's first term.10


1. James Conca, 16 Feb 2015, 'Can SMRs Lead The U.S. Into A Clean Energy Future?',
2. Nuclear Energy Insider, 2014, "Small Modular Reactors: An industry in terminal decline or on the brink of a comeback?",
3. March 2015, 'SMRs "back on the agenda next year", says new report by Nuclear Energy Insider',
4. Dan Yurman, 1 March 2015, 'Be careful about rose colored glasses when viewing the future of SMRs',
5. Peter Taberner, 3 March 2015, 'SMRs: private investors call for track record and big government orders',
6. Gordon MacKerron and Philip Johnstone, 2 March 2015, 'Small modular reactors – the future of nuclear power?',
7. WNN, 4 March 2015, 'Saudi Arabia teams up with Korea on SMART',
8. KACARE, 3 March 2015, 'MOU's Signature',
9. 18 Sept 2014, 'Saudi Arabia's nuclear power program and its weapons ambitions', Nuclear Monitor, Issue #791,
10. Jay Solomon and Ahmed Al Omran, 11 March 2015, 'Saudi Nuclear Deal Raises Stakes for Iran Talks',

Nuclear power: 2014 review

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

Global nuclear power capacity increased slightly in 2014 according to the World Nuclear Association1:

  • Five new reactors (4.76 gigawatts (GW)) began supplying electricity (three in China, one each in Argentina and Russia), and three were permanently shut down (Vermont Yankee, USA; Fukushima Daiichi #5 and #6).
  • There are now 437 'operable' reactors (377.7 GW) compared with 435 reactors (375.3 GW) a year ago. Thus the number of reactors increased by two (0.5%) and nuclear generating capacity increased by 2.4 GW (0.6%). (For comparison, around 100 GW of solar and wind power capacity were built in 2014, up from 74 GW in 2013.2)
  • Construction started on just three reactors during 2014, one each in Belarus, the United Arab Emirates, and Argentina. A total of 70 reactors (74 GW) are under construction.

Thus a long-standing pattern of stagnation continues. Global nuclear power capacity grew by 10.6% in the two decades from 1995−2014, and just 2.6% in the decade from 2005−2014.3

The pattern of stagnation is likely to persist. Steve Kidd, a nuclear consultant who worked for the World Nuclear Association for 17 years, wrote in a May 2014 article: "Upper scenarios showing rapid nuclear growth in many countries including plants starting up in new countries now look very unlikely, certainly before the late 2020s. If there is to be a nuclear renaissance, it is now much more likely to happen later, and with a new generation of reactors. On the other hand, predictions that another major accident would shut down nuclear in lots of countries have been negated by the experience of Fukushima. Although there remain some uncertainties, the outlying upper and lower cases are much less credible than before."4

Despite 20 years of stagnation, the World Nuclear Association remains upbeat. Its latest report, The World Nuclear Supply Chain: Outlook 2030, envisages the start-up of 266 new reactors by 2030.5 The figure is implausible − it would require completion of the 70 reactors under construction, start-to-finish construction of another 196 reactors, and start-to-finish construction of dozens more reactors to replace those that are shut down ... all in the space of 15 years! If only the World Nuclear Association took bets on its ridiculous projections.

Nuclear Energy Insider is more sober and reflective in an end-of-year review published in December: "As we embark on a new year, there are distinct challenges and opportunities on the horizon for the nuclear power industry. Many industry experts believe that technology like Small Nuclear Reactors (SMR) represent a strong future for nuclear. Yet, rapidly growing renewable energy sources, a bountiful and inexpensive supply of natural gas and oil, and the aging population of existing nuclear power plants represent challenges that the industry must address moving forward."6

Steve Kidd is still more downbeat, arguing that nuclear advocates have not made much progress gaining public acceptance over the past few years.7 Kidd writes: "[W]e have seen no nuclear renaissance (instead, a notable number of reactor closures in some countries, combined with strong growth in China) ... Countries such as Germany and Switzerland that claim environmental credentials are moving strongly away from nuclear. Even with rapid nuclear growth in China, nuclear's share in world electricity is declining. The industry is doing little more than hoping that politicians and financiers eventually see sense and back huge nuclear building programmes. On current trends, this is looking more and more unlikely. The high and rising nuclear share in climate-friendly scenarios is false hope, with little in the real outlook giving them any substance. Far more likely is the situation posited in the World Nuclear Industry Status Report8 ... Although this report is produced by anti-nuclear activists, its picture of the current reactors gradually shutting down with numbers of new reactors failing to replace them has more than an element of truth given the recent trends."

Kidd's comments on renewables are also worth quoting: "The nuclear industry giving credence to climate change from fossil fuels has simply led to a stronger renewables industry. Nuclear seems to be "too difficult" and gets sidelined − as it has within the entire process since the original Kyoto accords. And now renewables, often thought of as useful complements to nuclear, begin to threaten it in power markets when there is abundant power from renewables when the wind blows and the sun shines."7

Kidd proposes reducing nuclear costs by simplifying and standardising current reactor designs. Meanwhile, as the International Energy Agency's World Economic Outlook 2014 report noted, nuclear growth will be "concentrated in markets where electricity is supplied at regulated prices, utilities have state backing or governments act to facilitate private investment." Conversely, "nuclear power faces major challenges in competitive markets where there are significant market and regulatory risks, and public acceptance remains a critical issue worldwide."9

Four countries supposedly driving a nuclear renaissance

Let's briefly consider countries where the number of power reactors might increase or decrease by 10 or more over the next 15−20 years. Generally, it is striking how much uncertainty there is about the nuclear programs in these countries.

China is one of the few exceptions. China has 22 operable reactors, 27 under construction and 64 planned. Significant, rapid growth can be expected unless China's nuclear program is derailed by a major accident or a serious act of sabotage or terrorism.10

In the other three countries supposedly driving a nuclear renaissance − Russia, South Korea and India − growth is likely to be modest and slow.

Russia has 34 operating reactors, nine under construction and 31 planned. Only three reactors have begun operation over the past decade, and the pattern of slow growth is likely to continue. As for Russia's ambitious nuclear export program, Steve Kidd noted in October 2014 that it "is reasonable to suggest that it is highly unlikely that Russia will succeed in carrying out even half of the projects in which it claims to be closely involved".11

South Korea has 23 operating reactors, five under construction and eight planned. Earlier plans for rapid nuclear expansion have been derailed by the Fukushima disaster, a major scandal over forged safety documents, and a hacking attack on Korea Hydro's computer network.12 Growth will be, at most, modest and slow.

India has 21 operating reactors, six under construction and 22 planned. But India's nuclear program is in a "deep freeze" according to a November 2014 article in the Hindustan Times.13 Likewise, India Today reported on January 8: "The Indian nuclear programme is on the brink of distress. For the past four years, no major tender has gone through − a period that was, ironically, supposed to mark the beginning of an Indian nuclear renaissance in the aftermath of the landmark India−US civil nuclear deal."14

India's energy minister Piyush Goyal said in November 2014 that the government remains "cautious" about developing nuclear power. He pointed to waning interest in the US and Europe: "This government would like to be cautious so that we are not saddled with something only under the garb of clean energy or alternate energy; something which the West has discarded and is sought to be brought to India."15

A November 2014 article in The Hindu newspaper notes that three factors have put a break on India's reactor-import plans: "the exorbitant price of French- and U.S.-origin reactors, the accident-liability issue, and grass-roots opposition to the planned multi-reactor complexes."16 In addition, unresolved disagreements regarding safeguards and non-proliferation assurances are delaying US and European investment in India's nuclear program.17

Saudi Arabia last year announced plans to build 16 reactors by 2032. Already, the timeline has been pushed back from 2032 to 2040.18 As with any country embarking on a nuclear power program for the first time, Saudi Arabia faces daunting logistical and workforce issues.19 Numerous nuclear supplier are lining up to supply Saudi Arabia's nuclear power program but political obstacles could easily emerge, not least because Saudi officials (and royalty) have repeatedly said that the Kingdom will build nuclear weapons if Iran's nuclear program is not constrained.20

South Africa's on-again off-again nuclear power program is on again with plans for 9.6 GW of nuclear capacity in addition to the two operating reactors at Koeberg.21 In 2007, state energy utility Eskom approved a plan for 20 GW of new nuclear capacity. Areva's EPR and Westinghouse's AP1000 were short-listed and bids were submitted. But in 2008 Eskom announced that it would not proceed with either of the bids due to a lack of finance. Easy come, easy go.

Thus the latest plan for 9.6 GW of new nuclear capacity in South Africa is being treated with scepticism. Academic Prof. Steve Thomas noted in a July 2014 report: "Overall, a renewed call for tenders (or perhaps bilateral negotiations with a preferred bidder) is likely to produce the same result as 2008: a very high price for an unproven technology that will only be financeable if the South African public, either in the form of electricity consumers or as taxpayers, is prepared to give open ended guarantees."22

Pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman is also sceptical: "Depending on who's pricing analysis you accept, the reactors alone will cost between [US]$5000 (Rosatom) and $6500/Kw (Eskom) or between $48 billion and $62.4 billion. Adding in balance of plant equipment and power line infrastructure, and the total price tag heads north to between $65 billion and $84 billion. Given that the intended power purchase firm is state-owned Eskom, which is perpetually broke due to government resistance to rate increases, the entire exercise seems implausible at this scale. ... Almost no one believes that as long as Zuma is in power that anything remotely resembling an orderly procurement process is likely to take place."23

Iran has one operable power reactor. Last year, Russia and Iran signed a contract to build two power reactors, and they signed a protocol envisaging possible construction of an additional six reactors.24

Plans for significant nuclear power expansion in one or two other countries − such as the Pakistani government's plan for 40 GW of nuclear capacity by 2050 − are implausible.25

Nuclear negawatts

Now to briefly consider those countries where a significant decline of nuclear power is possible or likely over the next 15−20 years.

Patterns of stagnation or slow decline in north America and western Europe can safely be predicted. Steve Kidd wrote in May 2014 that uranium demand (and nuclear power capacity) "will almost certainly fall in the key markets in Western Europe and North America" in the period to 2030.4 In January 2014, the European Commission forecast that EU nuclear generating capacity of 131 GW in 2010 will decline to 97 GW in 2025.26

The United States has 99 operable reactors. Five reactors are under construction, "with little prospect for more" according to Decisions to shut down just as many reactors have been taken in the past few years. As the Financial Times noted last year, two decisions that really rattled the industry were the closures of Dominion Resources' Kewaunee plant in Wisconsin and Entergy's Vermont Yankee − both were operating and licensed to keep operating into the 2030s, but became uneconomic to keep in operation.28

The US Energy Information Administration estimated in April 2014 that 10.8 GW of nuclear capacity − around 10% of total US nuclear capacity − could be shut down by the end of the decade.29

The most that the US nuclear industry can hope for is stagnation underpinned by new legislative and regulatory measures favouring nuclear power along with multi-billion dollar government handouts. The situation is broadly similar in the UK − the nuclear power industry there is scrambling just to stand still.

France's lower house of Parliament voted in October 2014 to cut nuclear's share of electricity generation from 75% to 50% by 2025, to cap nuclear capacity at 63.2 GW, and to pursue a renewables target of 40% by 2030 with various new measures to promote the growth of renewables.30,31 The Senate will vote on the legislation early this year.

However there will be many twists and turns in French energy policy. Energy Minister Segolene Royal said on January 13 that France should build a new generation of reactors, and she noted that the October 2014 energy transition bill did not include a 40-year age limit for power reactors as ecologists wanted.32

Germany's government is systematically pursuing its policy of phasing out nuclear power by 2023. That said, nothing is certain: the nuclear phase-out policy of the social democrat / greens coalition government in the early 2000s was later overturned by a conservative government.

Japan's 48 operable reactors are all shut down. A reasonable estimate is that three-quarters (36/48) of the reactors will restart in the coming years. Before the Fukushima disaster, Tokyo planned to add another 15−20 reactors to the fleet of 55 giving a total of 70−75 reactors. Thus, Japan's nuclear power industry will be around half the size it might have been if not for the Fukushima disaster.

The elephant in the room − ageing reactors

The problem of ageing reactors came into focus in 2014 − and will remain in focus for decades to come with the average age of the world's power reactors now 29 years and steadily increasing.33,34

Problems with ageing reactors include:

  • the increased risk of accidents (and associated problems such as generally inadequate accident liability arrangements);
  • an increased rate of unplanned reactors outages (at one point last year, less than half of the UK's nuclear capacity was available due to multiple outages35);
  • costly refurbishments;
  • debates over appropriate safety standards for reactors designed decades ago; and
  • the costs associated with reactor decommissioning and long-term nuclear waste management.

Greenpeace highlighted the problems associated with ageing reactors with the release of a detailed report last year36, and emphasised the point by breaking into six ageing European nuclear plants on 5 March 2014.37

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its World Energy Outlook 2014 report: "A wave of retirements of ageing nuclear reactors is approaching: almost 200 of the 434 reactors operating at the end of 2013 are retired in the period to 2040, with the vast majority in the European Union, the United States, Russia and Japan."9

IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said: "Worldwide, we do not have much experience and I am afraid we are not well-prepared in terms of policies and funds which are devoted to decommissioning. A major concern for all of us is how we are going to deal with this massive surge in retirements in nuclear power plants."38

The World Energy Outlook 2014 report estimates the cost of decommissioning reactors to be more than US$100 billion (€89b) up to 2040, adding that "considerable uncertainties remain about these costs, reflecting the relatively limited experience to date in dismantling and decontaminating reactors and restoring sites for other uses."

The IEA's head of power generation analysis, Marco Baroni, said that even excluding waste disposal costs, the final cost could be as much as twice as high as the $100 billion estimate, and that decommissioning costs per reactor can vary by a factor of four.34

Baroni said the issue was not the decommissioning cost per reactor but "whether enough funds have been set aside to provide for it." Evidence of inadequate decommissioning funds is mounting. To give just one example, Entergy estimates a cost of US$1.24 billion (€1.10b) to decommission Vermont Yankee, but the company's decommissioning trust fund for the plant − US$0.67 billion − is barely half that amount.39

Michael Mariotte, President of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, noted in a recent article: "Entergy, for example, has only about half the needed money in its decommissioning fund (and even so still found it cheaper to close the reactor than keep it running); repeat that across the country with multiple and larger reactors and the shortfalls could be stunning. Expect heated battles in the coming years as nuclear utilities try to push the costs of the decommissioning fund shortfalls onto ratepayers."40

The nuclear industry has a simple solution to the problem of old reactors: new reactors. But the battles over ageing and decommissioned reactors − and the raiding of taxpayers' pockets to cover shortfalls − will make it that much more difficult to convince politicians and the public to support new reactors.


1. WNA Weekly Digest, 16 Jan 2015, 'Slight increase in nuclear capacity in 2014',
2. Tierney Smith, 9 Jan 2015, '5 Countries Leading the Way Toward 100% Renewable Energy',
4. Steve Kidd, 6 May 2014, 'The future of uranium – higher prices to come?',
5. WNA, 2014, 'The World Nuclear Supply Chain: Outlook 2030,
6. John Johnson, 5 Dec 2014, 'Nuclear power to change shape in 2015',
7. Steve Kidd, 21 Jan 2015, 'Is climate change the worst argument for nuclear?',
9. International Energy Agency, 2014, 'World Economic Outlook 2014',
10. China's nuclear power plans: safety and security challenges, 19 Dec 2014, Nuclear Monitor #796,
11. Steve Kidd, 6 Oct 2014, "The world nuclear industry – is it in terminal decline?",
12. Heesu Lee, 15 Jan 2015, 'Fukushima Meltdowns Pervade S. Korea Debate on Reactor Life',
13. Shishir Gupta and Jayanth Jacob, 30 Nov 2014, 'Govt plans N-revival, focuses on investor concerns',
14. Pranab Dhal Samanta, 8 Jan 2015, 'Splitting the liability atom',
15. 6 Nov 2014, 'Govt cautious about tapping nuclear energy for power generation',
16. Brahma Chellaney, 19 Nov 2014, 'False promise of nuclear power',
17. Indrani Bagchi, 19 Nov 2014, 'American officials put up hurdles, try to scuttle India-US nuclear deal',
18. Reuters, 19 Jan 2015,
19. Dan Yurman, 24 Jan 2015, 'Saudi Arabia delays its nuclear plans',
20. 18 Sept 2014, 'Saudi Arabia's nuclear power program and its weapons ambitions', Nuclear Monitor #791,
21. 'South Africa's stop-start nuclear power program', Nuclear Monitor #792, 2 Oct 2014,
22. Steve Thomas, July 2014, 'Nuclear technology options for South Africa',
23. Dan Yurman, 6 Dec 2014, 'China jumps into the action in South Africa',
24. 5 Dec 2014, 'Russia to build more reactors in Iran', Nuclear Monitor #795,
25. 20 Jan 2015, 'N-safeguards steps implemented: IAEA',
26. WNN, 9 Jan 2014, 'Policies hold European nuclear steady',
27. Nick Cunningham, 9 Feb 2014, 'Wind and Gas Forcing Out Nuclear in Midwest',
28. Ed Crooks, 19 Feb 2014, 'Uneconomic US nuclear plants at risk of being shut down',
29. Reuters, 29 Apr 2014, 'U.S. expects about 10 pct of nuclear capacity to shut by 2020',
30. 10 Oct 2014, 'France to cut nuclear's share of power market to 50% by 2025',
31. Michel Rose, 15 Oct 2014, 'French energy transition law to cut red tape on renewables',
32. Reuters, 13 Jan 2015, 'French energy minister wants new nuclear reactors',
33. Michael Mariotte, 3 April 2014, 'Nuclear reactors are getting old – and it's showing',
34. Nina Chestney and Geert De Clercq, 19 Jan 2015, 'Global nuclear decommissioning cost seen underestimated, may spiral',
35. Nuclear Free Local Authorities, 9 Dec 2014, 'NFLA concerns over the reliability of aging nuclear reactors in the UK',
36. Greenpeace International, 2014, 'Lifetime extension of ageing nuclear power plants: Entering a new era of risk',
38. WNN, 12 Nov 2014, 'Nuclear industry shares IEA concern',
39. Robert Audette, 19 Dec 2014, 'Vermont Yankee decommissioning plan submitted to NRC',
40. Michael Mariotte, 5 Jan 2015, 'Nuclear industry goes hysterically ballistic over Yankee shutdown',

Saudi Arabia's expensive quest for nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
M. V. Ramana and Ali Ahmad − Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

In the midst of all the news in recent weeks over the deal with Iran, it would have been easy to miss the news that another Middle Eastern state is moving towards acquiring its own nuclear reactors − Saudi Arabia.

In March 2015, following a meeting in Riyadh between South Korean president Park Guen­hye and Saudi's newly­crowned King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA­CARE) signed a memorandum of understanding to, inter alia, carry out a preliminary study to review the feasibility of constructing Korean Small Modular Reactors in Saudi Arabia.1 Later the same month, along with Argentina this time, Saudi Arabia set up a joint venture company to develop nuclear technology for Saudi Arabia's nuclear power program.2

Saudi Arabia has had a long-standing, although limited, interest in nuclear technology and these agreements are just the latest developments in that history. Other countries that have signed agreements with Saudi Arabia include France and China. Many more in the nuclear industry are hopeful of profiting from the Gulf country's interest. As Westinghouse chief executive Danny Roderick remarked in 2013, "We see Saudi Arabia as a good market for us."3

The stated arguments for nuclear construction are mostly familiar. As a royal decree from April 2010 put it in the case of Saudi Arabia: "The development of atomic energy is essential to meet the Kingdom's growing requirements for energy to generate electricity, produce desalinated water and reduce reliance on depleting hydrocarbon resources."4

Economic comparison

One further argument that is sometimes offered is economic competitiveness: as the President of KA-CARE stated in 2012, "nuclear energy is in many respects competitive with fossil fuels for electricity generation though the initial capital expenditure might be high."5

This is a somewhat strange argument to be making. Nuclear power has been struggling to compete in electricity markets around the world and it is hardly likely that in a country with no experience in building nuclear reactors, this world wide trend will suddenly be broken. Therefore, we decided to evaluate these arguments by examining the economics of nuclear power in the case of Saudi Arabia.6 Here we summarize our results.

We compared the electricity generation cost from nuclear reactors with three alternatives: natural gas based power plants, solar energy from photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power stations. What we found was that unless natural gas prices rise dramatically, that would remain the cheapest source of electricity generation − nuclear electricity would be more than twice as expensive than that produced by gas. The reason is simple: the very high capital cost of constructing a nuclear reactor, typically running into several billions of dollars. For example, the latest estimate for one of the three ongoing projects in the United States, in which two new 1,117-MW reactors are being built near Jenkinsville, S.C., is $11 billion.7 Electricity from gas would continue to be cheaper even if a relatively high carbon cost (even above $150/ton-CO2 in some scenarios) were imposed.

This large cost difference also negates the oft-made point about the foregone opportunity cost that is said to result from Middle Eastern countries consuming their natural gas resources instead of exporting these. It turns out that when the costs of liquefying and shipping of natural gas are taken into account, a country like Saudi Arabia should be assured of prices well above the current and historical global average for decades before replacing a natural gas plant with a nuclear reactor becomes an economically sound choice. The downward pressure caused by U.S. shale gas expansion and the volatility of the natural gas market does not allow for reasonable confidence in such a high gas price − certainly not enough to sink in billions of dollars into nuclear reactors and natural gas liquefaction facilities.

But in the case of oil, our analysis showed that it does make economic sense to shut down oil based power plants and replace those with nuclear reactors − or natural gas. But Saudi policy makers may have already realized that and nearly 100 percent of installed capacity in recent years is based on natural gas.

Solar power

The surprising result that came out of our analysis was that solar technologies are very competitive with nuclear reactors. The key point is that it would take at least a decade, quite possibly more, for a country like Saudi Arabia to generate its first unit of nuclear electricity, even if the decision were to be made tomorrow, and solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar technologies have both been experiencing dramatic declines in prices.8 Based on current trends, the cost of electricity from solar plants would become cheaper than from nuclear plants around the end of this decade or soon after in areas like the Middle East with ample sunshine.

Nuclear reactors, in contrast, are not becoming cheaper. Some studies9 find evidence of "negative learning" wherein nuclear costs rise as more reactors are constructed.10 Past reactor construction projects have often taken longer and have cost more than initially projected; indeed, significant escalation can be taken as inevitable given the nuclear industry's tendency to under-estimate costs and construction times. The best recent example comes from Olkiluoto in Finland, where just the losses that Areva has accrued when compared to the initial contract price exceeds 5 billion euros.11 Commissioning of the reactor has been delayed by nearly a decade compared to initial projections.

The thirteen years or more that it could take to get the Olkiluoto plant to generate electricity is exceptionally long, but the average period it takes to construct a nuclear reactor anywhere in the world is about eight years. This does not include the time spent before construction on building infrastructure, regulatory activities, and so on. In general, one can assume that it would take a decade or even two for a nuclear plant to go from planning to commissioning.

Small modular reactors

The specific reactor design that was the subject of the recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and South Korea is called the SMART, one of the many designs that are called small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs, with power outputs of less than 300 MWe, are being promoted by nuclear establishments in many countries.

The term small is used to indicate that the power level is much lower than the average power delivered by currently operating reactors. Modular means that the reactor is assembled from factory-fabricated parts or "modules". Each module represents a portion of the finished plant built in a factory and shipped to the reactor site. Modularity is also used to indicate the idea that rather than constructing one large reactor, the equivalent power output will be generated using multiple smaller reactors that allow for greater tailoring of generation capacity to demand.

SMRs such as the SMART are likely to be even more expensive ways of generating electricity than the large nuclear reactors being built today. Small nuclear reactors are cheaper in absolute terms, but they also generate less electricity. When the two factors − smaller overall cost and smaller generation capacity − are taken together, the cost per unit of electricity for small reactors generated turns out to be higher that for large reactors. This is why reactors became larger and larger over the 1960s to the 1980s/1990s. Thus, it seems likely that SMRs will lose out on the economies of scale that standard sized (roughly 1000 MW) reactors benefit from.

SMR proponents claim that because new reactor designs are different, the comparison with traditional reactor costs is invalid and the scaling law does not hold. They also claim that even if there are diseconomies of scale, these can be compensated by the economic advantages accruing from modular and factory construction, learning from replication, and co-siting of multiple reactors.12

Despite these claims, detailed and carefully conducted interviews showed that even experts drawn from, or closely associated with, the nuclear industry expect these reactors to cost more per kW of capacity than currently operating reactors.13 Therefore, if nuclear power based on large reactors is likely to be expensive, then electricity from the SMART project in Saudi Arabia will be even more non-competitive.

Unless, of course, there are large subsidies involved. In the case of South Korea's deal with the United Arab Emirates, South Korea seems to have subsidized the project substantially; some have estimated the deal with the UAE at being about 20 per cent beneath the industry average.14 Not surprisingly, the deal was criticized within South Korea as commercially weak and that future customers will demand similar terms.15

While there is a long history of systematic under-bidding in nuclear projects, especially in the case of countries with ambitious nuclear programs, this sort of subsidization can be done only for the first one or two projects, and cannot be the basis of a large-scale expansion of nuclear power in Saudi Arabia.

In addition to all the problems of nuclear power, solar power is also very appropriate to Saudi Arabia. There is substantial overlap between the electricity demand and solar insolation patterns16, and there will be little or no need for constructing expensive storage facilities to deal with the fact that the Sun doesn't shine at night.

In summary, the economic case for Saudi Arabia to build nuclear reactors is non-existent unless natural gas prices shoot up or there is some climate agreement that introduces very high carbon costs. To the extent that countries desire to move away from fossil fuels, switching to solar power makes much more financial sense, and one that might seem naturally suited to local conditions.

Now, if only some other Prime Minister or President were to make a visit to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud and explain why solar power might be a better bet than nuclear reactors, small or large.



South Korea indicts 100 people over safety scandals

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

South Korea has indicted 100 people of corruption and forgery in the scandal over fake safety certifications for parts in its nuclear reactors, authorities said on October 3. The people are from Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co (KHNP − which operates the nation's 23 nuclear reactors), from parts suppliers, and from certifiers.[1] A vice president at Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) and a former KHNP chief executive face bribery charges.[2]

The scandal broke last November after the country's energy ministry ordered the shutdown of two reactors after admissions that eight unnamed firms that supplied parts had faked certificates covering thousands of nuclear power components from 2003 to 2012, affecting at least five reactors. Then in May, it was revealed that four other reactors had components (safety-related control cabling) with forged documentation, prompting the shut down of two reactors for about four months for replacements.[1] Currently, six of the country's 23 reactors are off-line either because of the scandal or scheduled outages.

According to the government's policy coordination ministry, 277 out of 22,000 documents of tests on components at 20 reactors were found to be forged. Of 218,000 documents examined for a further eight units, including five under construction, a total of 2,010 were found to be falsified.[3]

The scandal continues to widen. On October 16, KHNP revealed that control cables at two reactors under construction − Shin Kori 3 and 4 − failed a re-evaluation. Completion of these reactors has been put back by 6−12 months.[1]

Park Young-June, a former deputy minister in charge of energy, has been charged with accepting 50 million won (US$45,000) bribes in 2010 in return for favouring a constructor bidding for a nuclear reactor contract. He is also charged with taking money from Kim Jong-Shin, the one-time chief of KHNP.[4]

In late September, new KHNP chief executive Cho Seok issued a public apology. "Our domestic nuclear project is facing the utmost crisis," he said, adding that public trust had "hit the ground" because of Fukushima and the corruption issues in Korea.[3]

The Atomic Power Review website provides a useful summary of recent events:[5]

"In terms of "will parts with faked certificates actually work," the answer appears in at least one case to be "no," and "do parts supplied under these bribery-induced contracts meet specs," the answer also appears to be "no." Much else has developed in the interim. Let's detail developments in recent times, since it was announced that about 100 people had been indicted overall in the scandal ...

  • In early October, it was found that eight nuclear cable suppliers were price fixing; a fine was imposed and a case referred to prosecutors.[6]
  • The cable makers were found to have been paying very high dividends − and it was noted that the fine amount was insignificant to deter the practice when compared with the profit derived from a successful bid.[7]
  • A large number of faked testing results were discovered in connection with investigation into the corruption scandal, including 277 used to cover parts at operating plants.[8]
  • Suspect cables have failed inspections at two reactor plants.[9]
  • On October 17 it was revealed that the Korean Government would sue LS Group, which owns JS Cable − the major culprit in supply of suspect cables.[10]
  • Another piece hinted that LS Group might sue Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power.[11]
  • On October 22, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power confirmed it would sue LS Group for very significant amounts in damages.[12]"


On October 13, a government working group recommended that nuclear power capacity be kept between 22−29% of total electricity generation by 2035, well below existing plans to grow the sector to 41% in less than 20 years. The government will hold public hearings to decide whether to back the recommendation before finalising its policy in December.[13]


See also Nuclear Monitor #765, 1 Aug 2013, 'South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens'


Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Stop Japan's Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant
Action Requested: Sending letter to the Japanese Embassy in your country urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Japan! Sixty-eight years ago on August 9, an atomic bomb containing about 6kg of plutonium destroyed the city of Nagasaki in an instant. Next year, Japan intends to start the commercial operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, the only industrial-scale reprocessing plant in a non-nuclear weapons state, to separate plutonium from fuel used in nuclear power plants at a rate of 8 tons per year, equivalent to 1,000 bombs using the IAEA formula of 8 kg per bomb.

Originally, Japan intended to use separated plutonium to fuel fast breeder reactors, which were supposed to produce more plutonium than they consumed, guaranteeing a semi-eternal energy source. As in other countries, this program stalled, however. So Japan launched an uneconomical program to consume its accumulating plutonium in light water reactors. This also stalled. As result Japan has accumulated about 44 tons of plutonium, equivalent to more than 5,000 bombs: 34 tons in Europe, from reprocessing Japan's spent fuel in the UK and France, and 10 tons in Japan.

Due to the Fukushima accident we have only two of 50 reactors operating. The number and the timing the reactors to be restarted is uncertain and the prospect of being able to consume a significant amount of the existing plutonium in reactors anytime soon is dim. Applications for review for restart of 10 reactors under the new safety rules were just submitted July 8.

The government still wants to start operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Further accumulation of nuclear-weapon-usable material is a concern for the international society and for Japan's neighbors, who wonder about its intentions.

Separated plutonium is also a security risk. And if other countries follow Japan's example, it would increase proliferation risks.

Please help us to stop Japan from further separating nuclear weapon usable material by doing the following:

Send a message/letter by fax or otherwise to the Japanese Embassy in your country by August 9 urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant and send a copy of the message/letter that you have sent or intend to send to the following e-mail address by 5 August no-pu[@]

List of Japanese Embassies:

We will deliver them to the government of Japan on August 9. We also will release them to the media.

Thank you very much in advance.


Sincerely yours,

Yasunari Fujimoto
Secretary General,
Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN)

(For background information see 'Japan's Reprocessing Plans, Nuclear Monitor #763, 13 June 2013).


Canada: Cameco agreement to silence indigenous protests on uranium mining
After the Pinehouse collaboration Agreement with Cameco and Areva in December 2012, with the English First River Nation in May 2013 another indigenous community of Northwest Saskatchewan has - against protests of their community members - signed an agreement with these uranium mining companies to support their business and not to disturb it anymore.

The agreement - which members have not been permitted to see - allegedly promises $600 million in business contracts and employee wages to the Dene band, in exchange for supporting Cameco/Areva's existing and proposed projects within ERFN's traditional territory, and with the condition that ERFN discontinue their lawsuit against the Saskatchewan government relating to Treaty Land Entitlement section of lands near Cameco's proposed Millenium mine project.

− from Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013,

More information:
Committee for Future Generations,
Peter Prebble and Ann Coxworth, July 2013, 'The Government of Canadaʼs Legacy of Contamination in Northern Saskatchewan Watersheds,

South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens
The scandal in South Korea concerning the use of counterfeit parts in nuclear plants, and faked quality assurance certificates, has widened. [1]
In May 2012, five engineers were charged with covering up a potentially dangerous power failure at the Kori-I reactor which led to a rapid rise in the reactor core temperature. The accident occurred because of a failure to follow safety procedures. [2] A manager decided to conceal the incident and to delete records, despite a legal obligation to notify the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. [3] In October 2012, authorities temporarily shut down two reactors at separate plants after system malfunctions.

Then in November 2012, the scandal involving counterfeit parts and faked certificates erupted. [4] The reactor parts included fuses, switches, heat sensors, and cooling fans. The scandal kept escalating and by the end of November it involved at least 8601 reactor parts, 10 firms and six reactors and it was revealed the problems had been ongoing for at least 10 years. Plant owner Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) acknowledged possible bribery and collusion by its own staff members as well as corruption by firms supplying reactor parts. [5]

Two reactors were taken offline to replace thousands of parts, while replacement parts were fitted to other reactors without taking them offline.

In recent months the scandal has continued to expand.

Late May 2013: Two more reactors were shutdown and the scheduled start of two others was delayed because an anonymous whistleblower revealed that "control cables had been supplied to [the] four reactors with faked certificates even though the part had failed to pass a safety test." [6]

June 20: Widespread police raids. [7] Prosecutors reveal that the number of plants suspected to have non-compliant parts (or at least paperwork) has widened to include 11 of South Korea's 23 reactor reactors. [8]

July 8: The former president of KHNP was arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into nuclear industry corruption. [9,10]

July 10: Search and seizure occurred at Hyundai Heavy Industries after the Busan Prosecutor's office obtained warrants relating to the nuclear parts scandal. [11]

July 11: Details emerged on the involved parties in the Hyundai headquarters raid, including persons and exchanged funds. Contract bribery is included in the charges. [12]

Even before the scandals of the past two years, a 2011 IPSOS survey found 68% opposition to new reactors in South Korea. [13] The proportion of South Koreans who consider nuclear power safe fell from 71% in 2010 to 35% in 2012. [14]

References and Sources:
1. Atomic Power Review, 14 July 2013, 'South Korea's Nuclear Energy Corruption Scandal Widens in Scope',
13. IPSOS, June 2011, 'Global Citizen Reaction to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster',
14. Reuters, 7 Jan 2013, 'South Korea to expand nuclear energy despite growing safety fears',


France: Activists target uranium and nuclear plants
Two uranium facilities were blocked by activists in the South of France on June 19. The collectives "Stop Uranium" and "Stop Tricastin" organised simultaneous non-violent blockades in front of two uranium facilities in the south of France. The first facility, the Comurhex Malvési (near Narbonne) is the entrance gate for yellowcake in France. The second facility was the Eurodif enrichment plant, on the Tricastin nuclear site, near Avignon.

About 30 Greenpeace activists were arrested on July 15 after breaking into an EDF nuclear power plant in southern France, saying they wanted to expose security flaws and demanding its closure. The activists said they reached the walls of two reactors at the Tricastin plant, one of France's oldest. The protesters who entered the plant at dawn unfurled a yellow and black banner on a wall above a picture of President Francois Hollande, marked with the words: 'TRICASTIN ACCIDENT NUCLÉAIRE: PRÉSIDENT DE LA CATASTROPHE?' (Tricastin Nuclear Accident: President of the Disaster?).

"With this action, Greenpeace is asking François Hollande to close the Tricastin plant, which is among the five most dangerous in France," said Yannick Rousselet from Greenpeace France. Greenpeace is pressing Hollande to honour his previous promise to close at least 10 reactors by 2017 and 20 by 2020.

In July 2008 an accident at a treatment centre next to the Tricastin plant saw liquid containing untreated uranium overflow out of a faulty tank during a draining operation. The same month around 100 staff at Tricastin's nuclear reactor number four were contaminated by radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe.

Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013,
Reuters, 'Greenpeace activists break into French nuclear plant',
'French Greenpeace activists break into nuclear power plant', 15 July 2013,
Angelique Chrisafis, 25 July 2008, 'It feels like a sci-fi film' - accidents tarnish nuclear dream',


Germany: Activists blockade nuclear fuel production plant
On July 25, around 50 activists blockaded Areva's nuclear fuel production plant in Lingen, north-east Germany. The protest included a climbing action as well as Samba-band. For seven hours, traffic delivering material to the plant was blocked. Around midday, police arrived and cleared away the peaceful non-violent blockade. A number of activists were taken to the police station. A female activist was wounded and had to be taken to the hospital.

Photo from visual.rebellion:

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Israel: first permit for uranium exploration.
Israel’s Energy and Water Ministry on April 3 granted Gulliver Energy the first ever uranium exploration permit. The Israeli oil and gas exploration company is headed by former Mossad intelligence agency director Meir Dagan. In a statement dated April 3, Gulliver said the permit is for a year and covers 1,200 acres in Israel’s northern Negev Desert region near the town of Arad. The area to be explored extends to the Dead Sea. Gulliver requested the permit after radioactive material was discovered at shallow depths of less than 100 meters during oil exploration testing last year. A feasibility study conducted in the past year concluded there was a high probability of finding uranium there. Initial tests were conducted to a shallow depth but further tests at various depths are planned in order to assess the prospects for finding uranium.

Arad Mayor Tali Peloskov said the town will not allow any mining in the area. He has requested a meeting with Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman on the matter in order to assess the health risk of mining in the area. Local residents who are opposed to mining operations have also set up a lobby to oppose efforts to mine for uranium as well as phosphates near the town. The land involved is near large phosphate reserves. Israel conducted a national uranium survey in the late 1980s, and the region near Arad was found to have potential for uranium. In the past Israel attempted to extract uranium from phosphates. The Weizmann Institute of Science, a multidisciplinary research institute in Rehovot, Israel, developed a technique that was costly and the project was dropped. Neither the company nor the ministry has said whether the uranium would be used in Israel or exported.
NuclearFuel, 16 April 2012

Myanmar: no longer pursuing nuclear program.
Myanmarese President Thein Sein said on May 14, the country had given up its plan to develop nuclear programs in cooperation with Russia in the mid-2000s. Sein told visiting Korean President Lee Myung-bak that Russia offered to build two 10 megawatt nuclear reactors for civilian, not military, use. But the country’s military junta did not pushed the project due to its inability to manage it, he was quoted as saying by Lee’s security aide Kim Tae-hyo. In 2007, Russia's atomic energy agency and Myanmar signed a deal to build nuclear research reactor. Reports said the reactors would use low enriched uranium consisting of less than 20 percent uranium-235. The plans to buy a nuclear reactor from Russia have been in the pipeline for years, and were met with suspicion. (See for instance Nuclear Monitor 657, 21 June 2007: Myanmar: a new Iran in the making?)
Asia News Network (The Korea Herald), 15 May 2012

Brazil shelves plans to build new nuclear plants.
Brazil announced on May 9, it has abandoned plans to build new nuclear power stations in the coming years in the wake of last year's Fukushima disaster in Japan. The previous government led by former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had planned to construct between four and eight new nuclear plants through 2030. But the energy ministry's executive secretary, Marcio Zimmermann, was quoted as telling a forum May 8, that there was no need for new nuclear facilities for the next 10 years. "The last plan, which runs through 2020, does not envisage any (new) nuclear power station because there is no need for it. Demand is met with hydro-electrical power and complementary energy sources such as wind, thermal and natural gas."

Brazil has two PWR in operation. The Angra I was the first Brazilian nuclear reactor, which has been hampered by problems with corrosion in the steam generators due to a metal alloy used by westinghouse, which forced the recent replacement of both steam generators.

The Angra II reactor was completed after more than 20 years of construction, as costs soared from initial estimates of 500USD/kW in 1975 to over 4000USD/kw.
The total cost of Angra III, whose completion has been delayed for years, will be around 10 billion Brazilian reais (US$5.9 billion, 4.7bn euro).
AFP, 9 May 2012 /, 9 May 2012

Used parts sold for new in South Korea.
On May 11, a South Korean businessman has been jailed for three years for supplying potentially defective parts to the country's oldest atomic power plant Gori, near Busan. The man, identified only as Hwang, was sentenced for selling recycled turbine valve parts. He cleaned and painted used parts stolen from the plant's dump by an employee. He then sold them back to the plant, on three occasions since 2008, disguising them as new products. Hwang pocketed some three billion won (US$2.6 million) through the fraud, according to the court. The plant employee who stole the scrapped parts was sentenced to three years in prison in April.
There have been previous scandals over potentially defective parts in nuclear power plants. In April the nuclear safety watchdog launched an investigation at Gori and another plant, after they were found to be using components developed by a local company but based on illegally obtained French technology. The Gori-1 Reactor at the plant was also at the centre of a scare in February when it briefly lost power and the emergency generator failed to kick in. Several officials and engineers have been punished for covering up the incident.
AFP, 16 may 2012

Nigeria proposes two reactor sites. In the category ‘uhh, sorry?’ the following:
Nigeria’s Kogi and Akwa Ibom states are being put forward as proposed areas for nuclear reactors, pending approval of the federal executive council, the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) has said. Chairman of the commission, Dr Erepamo Osaisai, said it would submit the two locations for the siting of nuclear power reactors in the country soon to the Presidency. Dr Osaisai made the disclosure in a lecture to the fellows of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering in Sheda, Abuja. He said the preliminary sites' survey and evaluation project investigated a number of technical, environmental, security, social and economic issues. The two locations are within Geregu and Ajaokuta local governments in Kogi State and Itu Local Government in Akwa Ibom.

Nigeria is planning to generate 1000 MW of electricity through nuclear energy by 2020 and gradually increase it to 4000 MW by 2030. Osaisai expects that NAEC will apply for the licensing of the approved sites by the end of 2013. He said a draft law for the implementation of the national nuclear power program has been developed and has been subjected to detailed scrutiny by all major stakeholders with technical input of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to the news report.
The Nigerian Voice, 28 May 2012 / Nuclear Energy Insider, Policy & Commission Brief 24 – 30 May 2012

Tanzania: uranium mining threat to World Heritage site.
The Unesco World Heritage Committee (UWHC) will break the deadlock in June when it will decide whether or not to allow mining of uranium in Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest remaining wilderness areas in Africa, harboring the largest elephant population on the continent. The Mkuju River Uranium Project is planned by Russian ARMZ, a subsidiary of Rosatom and Canada-based UraniumOne. A decision on whether to change the boundary of the World Heritage site Selous Game Reserve and thus 'pave the way' for uranium mining - or not, will be made by the World Heritage Committee at its June 2012 session in St. Peterburg, Russia.

According to deputy minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Lazaro Nyalandu, any move by the committee to halt uranium extraction would be a big blow to Tanzania which has been insisting that its extraction is critical to funding the country’s development programs and driving its economy. Some international as well as local environmentalists and politicians, including a handful of MPs, have strongly opposed the mining plans. They have maintained that the mining project would have a devastating impact on the economic and social fronts, and would deal a major blow to the ecology of the region. However, Tanzania went ahead and applied to the Unesco World Heritage Committee for permission to mine uranium at the 5-million hectare game reserve in the south of Tanzania.
The Citizen (Tanzania), 18 May 2012

Rep. of Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special

Korea, Republic of

Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




Low and intermediate-level waste is stored at the sub-surface Gyeongju LILW repository at a depth of 80 meters. Korea dumped low-level waste in the Sea of Japan 5 times from 1968-1972.(*01) High-level waste is stored at the reactor sites, pending construction of a centralized interim storage facility (possibly by 2016). No date for operation of a final disposal facility has been established, although long-term, deep geological disposal is envisaged. Whether this is for used fuel as such or reprocessing wastes depends on national policy and will be decided later.(*02)

The Atomic Energy Act of 1988 established a 'polluter pays' principle under which nuclear power plant operators paid a fee into a national Nuclear Waste Management Fund. A revised waste program was drawn up by the Nuclear Environment Technology Institute and approved by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1998.(*03)

South Korea’s key national laws relating to spent fuel and radioactive waste management are the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and the Radioactive Waste Management Act (RWMA). The AEA provides for safety regulations and licensing for  construction and operation of radioactive-waste disposal facilities. The RWMA, which was announced in 2008, and enacted in March 2010, established the Korea Radioactive Waste Management Corporation (KRMC) and the Radioactive Waste Management Fund in which KHNP, the nuclear utility company, annually deposits funds for decommissioning its nuclear power plants, disposing of their LILW, and managing their spent fuel.(*04) KHNP now contributes a fee of 900,000 won (US$ 705) per kilogram of used fuel.(*05)

Reprocessing, either domestic or overseas, is not possible under constraints imposed by the country's cooperation agreement with the USA.(*06)  Reprocessing will be central at the renewal negotiations of the agreement in 2014. KHNP has considered offshore reprocessing to be too expensive, and recent figures based on Japanese contracts with Areva in France support this view, largely due to transport costs. (*07)

Low and intermediate level waste
South Korea’s attempts to site a central interim spent-fuel storage facility and repository for low and intermediate level waste (LILW) began in 1986. During the following decades, a number of failed attempts to acquire sites to host such facilities, due to fierce local opposition (*08) despite steadily growing incentive offers, (*09) were made.  In December 2004, therefore, the AEC decided to pursue separate sites for the LILW repository and the central interim spent-fuel storage facility, starting with the LILW site, which was seen as politically easier. In March 2005, a Special Act on Support for Areas Hosting Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility was passed that guaranteed a local government hosting the national LILW facility an exemption from hosting a spent-fuel storage facility. The central government required a local referendum on hosting the facility and offered more incentives.

Success was finally achieved. Four cities competed to host the facility and Gyeongju City won after 89.5 percent of its voters approved hosting the site in November 2005. (*10) Construction started in April 2008 and in December 2010 KRWM commenced operation of the facility, accepting the first 1000 drums of wastes, which will be held in outdoor storage until the underground repository itself is commissioned in 2012. (*11)

SF-storage, temporarily or interim?
Dry storage for spent fuel has already been built at the Wolsong site, and more is being built there. Some argue that this is illegal because the national low- and intermediate-level waste repository is adjacent to the Wolsong nuclear power plant and, according to the 2005 Special Act on Support for Areas Hosting Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility, the same community cannot be required to host both the national LILW repository and interim spent fuel storage facilities. The KRMC argues, however, that the on-site dry storage facilities at Wolsong are “temporary,” not the “interim” storage that is banned by the special Act.

A major reason for South Korea’s political failures in siting a central spent-fuel storage site was that its early site-selection process did not include consultation with local communities. Instead, the central government selected sites based on its own assessments, met strong opposition from the proposed host region, and gave up. (*12)

In April 2007, after the success in siting the LILW repository, a task force was established to design a process to achieve a public consensus on spent fuel management. Based on the task force’s report, in July 2009, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) established a committee to manage the process. A month later, however, the process was suspended and MKE announced that a legal framework and a solicitation of expert opinion were required first. An expert group composed of members of South Korea’s nuclear establishment was instructed to carry out a year-long research project during 2010 as a basis for the public consensus process.(*13)

If it is to be credible, however, such a public consensus process for spent fuel management will have to be open and transparent and involve local communities and independent experts. Whether or not the public consensus process will in fact be finally launched remains to be seen.

The R&D program on the disposal technology of high-level radioactive waste was initiated in 1997. After 10 years into the research program, a reference disposal system called the Korea Reference System (KRS) was formulated in 2006 on the basis of the results of the R&D program, which included performance and safety assessment, and studies on the geo-environmental conditions in Korea, an engineered barrier system, and the migration of radionuclides.

For the validation of the KRS, a project for constructing a generic underground research tunnel in a crystalline rock called the Korea Underground Research Tunnel (KURT) started in 2003. Following the site characterization study, the tunnel design, and the construction licensing, the construction of the KURT located at the KAERI site started in May 2005. Controlled drill and blasting techniques were applied to excavate a 6m wide, 6m high and 255m long horseshoe-shaped tunnel with a 10% downward slope. After the completion of this construction of the KURT in November 2006, various in-situ tests are being carried out for the validation of HLW disposal techniques. (*14) The third phase of R&D study ended in February 2007 and phase four is underway. The Korean reference disposal system to accommodate all kinds of wastes from the advanced fuel cycle will be developed. And key technologies developed in third phase will be verified.(*15)

The KURT facility will not need to use radioactive sources to validate HLW approaches which are strictly prohibited by law. Rather, the facility will conduct a series of experiments to investigate “groundwater flow and rock mass characteristics” which with the participation of the local population could help to build trust.(*16)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




The last reactor at the nuclear power plant in Lithuania, Ignalina, was closed permanently on 31 December 2010. The shutdown of the two Soviet-designed RBMK reactors was a condition of the accession to the European Union. The EU has agreed to pay decommissioning costs for the two RBMK reactors and some compensation through to 2013. Unit 1 of the Ignalina plant was shut at the end of 2004. (*01) Currently Lithuania is actively pursuing the construction of a new nuclear power plant: Visaginas. This is expected to operate from 2020 and is to be built in collaboration with Estonia, Latvia and Poland. However, in December 2011, Poland withdrew from the project. (*02)

All spent fuel is stored on site of Ignalina. First storage pools near the reactor and interim dry storage in the detached facility, where the spent fuel is stored in the same casks it is transported. It was intended to store the fuel unloaded from the reactor for several years and then to transfer it for processing to Russia. According to the Law on Environmental Protection (1992, last amended 2003), the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is prohibited. After that a decision was made to build a dry type interim storage for spent nuclear fuel at INPP and store it for 50 years.

The 2008 revised Strategy on Radioactive Waste Management, includes the construction of a new spent fuel interim storage facility; the transfer of spent fuel to the dry storage facilities; and to analyze the possibilities to dispose spent fuel and long-lived radioactive waste in Lithuania or to reprocess or dispose it in other countries.

Future strategy
Initial studies on geological disposal possibilities of the spent fuel were performed. The main objective was to demonstrate that in principle it is possible to implement a direct disposal in a safe way. The objective does not imply that disposal of spent fuel will take place in Lithuania. Which option shall be used for the potential disposal of spent fuel is to a large extent a political decision, and this investigation will be an important input to such decision once required.(*03)

Lithuania should start selection of a site for geological repository in 2030, if international practice is the same and there is no new advanced technologies applicable. In addition, possibilities to prolong storagetime in the storage containers are to be investigated.(*04)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




In 1998 a Radioactive Waste Management Policy project was started, which "unfortunately has not been issued due to socio-political obstacles." Currently there is no formally established policy for radioactive waste management. (*01) No reprocessing takes place.

On site storage spent fuel
The Energy Ministry is beginning to take administrative and budgetary steps to create a national company to manage its radioactive waste. It is also planning to sign the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management

An engineered near-surface disposal site for low-level waste (LLW) operated at Piedrera between 1985 and 1987. A collection, treatment and storage centre for LLW has operated at Maquixco since 1972. (*02)

Pending final solution, spent fuel is stored on site in modified spent fuel pools, (*03) increasing drastically the maximum capacity, "providing the time to develop an integral long-term strategy". (*04) But even 20 years later in a January 2010 presentation atmitted no specific disposal plan was established. Javier Palacios, head of ININ (National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Security) named the strategy and action on nuclear waste: "Formulating a national policy for the management of radioactive waste generated in the country". (*05)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




The Netherlands is searching for deep geological disposal in salt (and more recently in clay) since 1976. Spent fuel is reprocessed and interim storage of reprocessing waste takes place in a bunker at the Covra-facility in Vlissingen for about 100 years.(*01). The country dumped low and intermediate level waste in sea from 1967 to 1982.(*02) Since then all dutch LLW and ILW is stored at the Covra, first at Petten and since 1992 at Vlissingen.(*03)

The search for a suitable saltdome
On 18 June 1976 the government wrote a letter to the Executive Board of the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. The letter stated that five salt domes are eligible for test drilling: Gasselte Schoonlo, Pieterburen, Onstwedde and Anloo.(*04) The government thought actual storage could begin around the year 2000. (*05) According to J. Hamstra, then the main government adviser on nuclear waste, the storage of nuclear waste in the German Asse salt dome was an important argument to investigate salt domes in the Netherlands.(*06) Action groups against the plans were created inmmediately everywhere in Groningen and Drenthe.(*07) In March 1980 the Dutch parliament rejected test drillings and decided to hold a Social Debate on Energy (MDE), although everyone called it the Broad Social Discussion (BMD in Dutch). It was decided to delay exploratory drilling until after the BMD.(*08)

In 1984, shortly after the BMD, plans for test drilling reappeared again with the Commission Storage at Land (OPLA),(*09) although no specific proposals were mentioned. But in an 1987 interim report, OPLA listed 34 salt domes and salt layers in five northern provinces.(*10) Again, this list led to many protests.

A new attempt to discuss the problem of nuclear waste, was when, in 1987, Environment minister Nijpels (VVD, Liberals), started a consultation process about criteria the storage must meet.(*11) But Nijpels made a false start publishing an almost unreadable paper for the participation process, leading to discussions and protests even at governmental level. (*12)

On May 14, 1993 the then Environment Minister Alders (PvdA, Social Democrats) wrote that underground storage will be allowed, when 'permanent retrievability' is assured. One should always be able to get to the nuclear waste, but salt domes are slowly silting up. Alders therefor called storage in salt "not very realistic", but wanted "further inquiry" into storage in salt and - a new possibility - in clay. (*13)

To study permanent retrievability, the Ministry of Economic Affairs inaugurated in 1995 the Commission Radioactive Waste Disposal (CORA), which published its report 'Retrievable storage, a accessible path? ' in February 2001. Exploratory drilling and further studies in salt domes or clay layers are to be postponed, but not canceled definetely. The nuclear waste remains above ground…. for the moment.

In the years that followed different governments voiced the same opinion. Former Environment Minister Cramer for instance wrote to parliament on June 30, 2009: "In the current state of science and technology only geological (deep underground) disposal of highly radioactive waste is a solution, which ensures the waste will, even after millions of years, remains outside the living space (biosphere) of humans." (*14)  According to the minister future policy will be "directed at retrievable final disposal of radioactive waste in deep underground." She also stated that the report about the preconditions for the construction of new nuclear power plants, which will be published in the spring of 2010, will discuss "possible future policy on radioactive waste."The government wants a discussion about nuclear power with "experts and stakeholders."

To prepare such a discussion the government commissioned a report from the Dutch Nuclear Research & Consultancy Group (NRG). The regional newspaper Nieuwsblad van het Noorden quoted from the still classified report on December 14, 2009. According to the report, which speaks of disposal in deep underground stable geological formations, the government should increase its efforts to convince authorities and public of the necessity of storage of nuclear waste, without questioning risks and dangers. As a precondition for the construction of a new nuclear reactor –in operation in 2020-  the reports states: “final disposal is an accepted idea in 2015.” “There must be a step-to-step scheme to realize acceptance of geological disposal”, according to NRG.

On January 8 2010, the Advice for guidelines for the Environmental Impact Report for the construction of a second nuclear power plant at Borssele was published by the ministry.(*15) In it it says: "Give attention to the possibilities of final disposal of radioactive waste". Meaning disposal in salt or clay. The Covra (the 100% state-owned organisation responsible for storing all radioactive waste) started a new research project on July 5, 2011: Research Program Final Disposal Radioactive Waste (in Dutch OPERA).(*16) "In the current state of science and technology only geological disposal of highly radioactive waste is a solution, which ensures the waste will, for the long term, remains outside the living space (biosphere) of humans." And: "The decision about a disposal facility for Dutch radioactive waste is a process with a very long time horizon (according to the current policy at least 100 years) that will be implemented gradually." … "International experience show this is at least a 20-25 year long process. The ultimate construction of the facility is expected to take another 5-10 years. This means final disposal in the Netherlands will not be in operation before 2130". (*17)

In 2011, Greenpeace commissioned T&A Survey to do a study about underground clay-layers in the Netherlands. Conclusion of the research is that the so-called Klei van Boom (Boom's clay)  meet the preconditions announced by the government for waste disposal in four area's.

Then Greenpeace started an intensive campaign against the disposal in these clay-layers. Early February 2012, over 80 concerned municipalities and all provinces made statements opposing underground disposal of radioactive waste on its territories. (*18)


Korea, Republic of
*01- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999, p.40
*02- OECD: Radioactive waste management in Republic of Korea, 2010, p.10
*03- World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Power in South Korea, March 2012
*04- OECD, 2010, p.
*05- World Nuclear Association, March 2012
*06- South Korea’s nuclear energy development has been made possible by the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement signed in 1972. The United States provided nuclear technologies and materials necessary for the peaceful use of nuclear energy; in return, South Korea was specifically prohibited from proliferation-related activities such as the reprocessing of spent fuel and uranium enrichment under the terms of the agreement. After three decades of successful bilateral nuclear cooperation, the two governments are due to renew the accord by 2014. See: Seongho Sheen: Nuclear Sovereignty versus Nuclear Security: Renewing the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement, in The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, Vol. 23, No. 2, June 2011, 273–288
*07- Nuclear Fuel: Reprocessing cost might exceed KHNP’s spent fuel management fees, 13 July 2009, p. 1
*08- see for instance the case of Buan; Nuclear Monitor 591: Massive actions against proposed South Korean waste dump, 22 August 2003, p.5
*09- Seong-Kyung Cho and Jooho Whang, “Status and Challenges of Nuclear Power Program and Reflections of Radioactive Waste Management Policy in Korea,” 2009 Advanced Summer School of Radioactive Waste Disposal with Social-Scientific Literacy, Berkeley, CA, 3 — 10 August 2009        
*10- Korea Herald: Gyeongju wins vote for nuclear dump, 3 November 2005
*11- World Nuclear Association, March 2012
*12- Seong-Kyung Cho and Jooho Whang, August 2009
*13- This is based on several South Korean news items in 2009, quoted in: IPFM, Managing spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, 2011, p. 68
*14- Republic of Korea: Korean Third National Report under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, October 2008, p.91
*15- OECD, 2010, p.12
*16- Miles Pomper, Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, Stephanie Lieggi, and Lawrence Scheinman: Nuclear Power and Spent Fuel in East Asia: Balancing Energy, Politics and Nonproliferation, Asia-Pacific Journal: 21 June 2010

*01- World Nuclear News: Lithuania shuts Ignalina plant, 4 January 2011)
*02- World Nuclear News: Lithuanian project makes progress, 30 March 2012
*03- Lithuania: Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, Second National Report, 2008
*04- Algirdas Vaidotas: Radioactive waste management in Lithuania; implementation and strategies, Deputy Director Radioactive Waste Management Agency (RATA), 4 November 2011

*01- IAEA: Country Profile Mexico
*02- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Mexico, March 2012
*03- OECD: Radioactive waste management programmes in OECD countries: Mexico, 2005.
*04- Augusto Vera: Laguna Verde Station approach to nuclear waste, Comision Federal de Electricidad, 1993
*05- Javier Palacios H.: Situación de los Desechos Radioactivos en México, presentation at OLADE, 25-27 February 2010.

*01- COVRA: Beleid (Policy), COVRA website
*02- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999.
*03- Energie en Milieuspectrum: Radioactief afval een eeuw onderdak (Radioactive waste under a shelter for a century), March 1994
*04- Letter Minister Economic Affairs Lubbers and Minister of Public Health and Enviroment Vorrink to Gedeputeerde Staten (Executive Board) of Groningen and Drenthe, 18 June 1976. Reference 376/-II/1055/EEK.
*05- ICK-commissie; Subcommissie Radioactieve Afvalstoffen (RAS), Eerste interimrapport betreffende de mogelijkheden van opslag van radioactieve afvalstoffen in zoutvoorkomens in Nederland, (1977).(ICK-Commission Subcommission Radioactive Waste (RAS). First interimreport about possibilities for the disposal of radioactive waste substances in salt formations in the Netherlands.)
*06- Atoomenergie, July/August 1974, pp. 175-181.
*07- An anthology of press publications and comments on the disposal proposals can be found in: Meent van der Suis, Energie en milieu in de Nederlandse krant 1968-1993, (19933). (Energy and environment in the Dutch newspapers 1968-1993)
*08- Tweede Kamer, session 1979-1980, 15802, nrs. 11-12, p.160.
*09- Tweede Kamer, session 1984-1985, 18343, 6.
*10- Commissie Opberging te Land (OPLA): Onderzoek inzake geologische opberging van radioactief afval in Nederland, Tweede Tussenrapport over Fase 1 (January 1986-January 1987), 1987. (Commission Storage on Land. Research for geological disposal of radioactive waste in the Netherlands. Second Interim report on Phase 1)
*11- Ministerie of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment (VROM): Basisnotitie ten behoeve van de ontwikkeling van een toetsingscriterium voor de ondergrondse opberging van radioactief afval (TOR), (1987). (Basic notes for development of assessment criteria for the underground disposal of radioactive waste)
*12- Stichting Natuur en Milieu: Reactie namens de hele Nederlandse milieubeweging op de zogeheten TOR-nota (26 October 1987). (Reaction for the Dutch Environmental movement on the so-called TOR-notes)
*13- Tweede Kamer, session 1992-1993, 23163, nr 1.
*14-  Ministry of VROM, Reference RB/2009040895, 30 June 2009
*15- Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I): Advice for guidelines for the Environmental Impact Report for the construction of a second nuclear power plant at Borssele, 3 December 2009 / reportnumber: 2295-48
*16- COVRA press release: Start OPERA program, 5 July 2011
*17- OPERA: Mutiannual program OPERA, 5 July 2011.
*18- see picture (greenpeace brochure  -blz 5, of website)
*19- Greenpeace campaign website, (visited February 8, 2012)

Rising antinuclear tide in South Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On March 10, antinuclear groups staged a rally in the capital of South Korea, Seoul, to voice opposition to nuclear power on the eve of the first anniversary of Fukushima. Over 5,000 people, including many young people and families with children, took part in the rally. The turnout was one of the biggest in recent memory for an antinuclear demonstration. The rally adopted a declaration demanding that the government abandon its policy to promote nuclear power.

South Korea operates 21 reactors and plans to build 13 more ― seven of them under construction and six others planned ― by 2024 to increase the nuclear share of the country’s electricity production to 48.5 percent from 31.2 percent last year. But the scheme may face a strong headwind as surveys have shown a rising antinuclear tide among the public in the wake of the Fukushima accident. In South Korea, before the Fukushima accident, a small number of environmental groups raised voices for abandoning nuclear power, but June last year the Joint Action for Nuclear-free Society, a coalition of about 40 civic organizations was formed. A growing number of civic activists, lawyers, professors and religious leaders have participated in the movement to seek alternatives to the government’s plan to expand the nuclear capacity to meet an ever-increasing demand for electricity.

In a poll taken by the Korea Energy Economics Institute in 2009, about 42 percent of Koreans favored nuclear power and 38.8 percent remained neutral. But the corresponding figures fell to 16.9 percent and 23.8 percent in a survey conducted last August. The proportion of respondents who opposed it jumped to 59.3 percent from 19.2 percent over the cited period.

Less than half felt nuclear power was dangerous in 2009 but the figure climbed to 75.6 percent in 2011 after Fukushima. Confidence in the safety of local nuclear power stations weakened from 70.5 percent to 52.6 percent.

More than 70 percent were in favor of building more reactors in 2009 but the proportion shrank to 38 percent last year. Nearly 55 percent said they found no problem with a nuclear plant being built in the area near where they lived in 2009, but only 29.5 percent replied so in 2011.

Public sentiment against nuclear power was exacerbated particularly in the provinces of North Gyeongsang, South Gyeongsang and South Jeolla and the southeastern city of Busan, where most of the reactors in operation or planned are located.

Little swayed by the surge in the antinuclear tide, President Lee Myung-bak committed himself to carrying out the nuclear expansion plan in a recent news conference. Lee argued that for Korea, which “does not produce a drop of oil,” there is no other option but nuclear power to meet the growing demand for electricity. He said abandoning nuclear energy would cause electricity rates to rise by as much as 40 percent.

Lee, who played a decisive role in gaining a US$40 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates in 2009 to construct and operate four reactors, reiterated his pledge to make Korea one of the five major players in the global nuclear industry. Two years ago, his administration announced a plan to export 80 reactors by 2030 to take a 20 percent share of the world market. Lee also said it would take at least three to four decades before renewable energy becomes economically viable.

His advocacy of nuclear power has drawn criticism from antinuclear activists. “He is leading the nation in the wrong direction to make us rely on nuclear power and thus burdened with its dangers forever,” Kim Hye-jeong, an activist who works for the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement said: “Lee’s nuclear policy is just anachronistic and turns a blind eye to the dominant public opinion.”

The Joint Action for Nuclear-free Society also issued a statement asserting Lee was either misinformed or distorted the facts to make his case for nuclear expansion. The group said Germany has not seen higher utility bills and has continued to export electricity even after shutting down eight reactors in 2011 as part of a plan to decommission all 17 reactors by 2022.

In support of the antinuclear campaign, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and heads of 45 small cities, counties and wards gathered in February to adopt a declaration pledging to go nuclear-free and turn to renewable energy. Park has pushed an initiative to cut energy consumption in the capital over the coming three years by the same amount that would make it possible to do away with a nuclear reactor.

The 'no to nuclear power' movement has recently taken on an increasing political implication as liberal and progressive opposition parties are trying to publicize their stances in the run-up to the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit slated for March 26-27. Dozens of former and incumbent lawmakers from the main opposition Democratic United Party launched a group in February to push for the country’s abolition of nuclear power and transformation toward renewable energy. The DUP leaders, who have opposed Seoul’s hosting of the second nuclear summit initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama, are expected to include the group’s demands in the list of the party’s pledges for the April 11, parliamentary elections.

Sources: The Korea Herald, 6 March 2012 / Mainichi Daily News, 11 March 2012