SEOUL — Orano TN, an American provider of total system solutions for used nuclear fuel and radioactive waste management, forged a business alliance with two South Korean companies to find new business opportunities in the dry storage of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power stations.
SeAH Besteel, a special steel producer in South Korea, signed a memorandum of understanding with its American partner, Orano, and KEPCO E&C, the power plant design and engineering wing of South Korea’s state electricity company, to exchange technology and information, strengthen mutual cooperation, and enter the nuclear power plant business together.
Orano will be in charge of providing dry storage system technology, while SeA Besteel will produce and jointly supply dry storage systems. KEPCO E&C is responsible for licensing and engineering services.
SeAH Besteel predicts a surge in demand for dry storage methods that cool and store spent nuclear fuel in separate storage containers. “Through this MOU, we will lay the foundation for a successful spent fuel dry storage business that combines both safety and economic feasibility.” said an unnamed SeAH Besteel official.
The storage of spent nuclear fuel consists of two phases: wet storage and dry storage. Spent fuel rods are first kept in storage pools of water, which provide cooling and shielding against radiation. After 7 to 10 years in wet storage, they can be transferred to dry storage such as concrete canisters, modular air-cooled canister storage (MACSTOR) units and dry storage containers.
Currently, South Korean nuclear power plants use a wet storage method that stores spent nuclear fuel in internal storage tanks. Government data released in 2018 showed that South Korea needs a total cost of some 100.6 trillion won to seal reactors and manage spent fuel and radioactive waste.
However, there has been no clear answer from policymakers to address concerns about nuclear waste and the management of spent fuel because Washington refused to revise a 2015 accord that has effectively restricted the development of reprocessing facilities to acquire enriched uranium as fuel.
In March, SeAH Besteel became the first South Korean company to export spent nuclear fuel transport casks on an order from Orano. The South Korean company has established a mass production system by securing technical reliability such as product design, assembly, and heat transfer tests in line with international standards. SeAH Besteel verified its technology by participating in a domestic project to provide casks to Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), the state-run operator of nuclear power plants.
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