SEOUL, South Korea – Despite some countries putting the brakes on it following the Fukushima Daiichi’s near-meltdown incident, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) firmly indicated that it is not about to change its heart on nuclear as it is now lining up the installation of new eight units that will add up 11,200 megawatts on its installed generation capacity.
“We will need additional capacity to meet our growing energy demand, and that will still be provided by nuclear. It is a clean option, so it also our way to bring down our carbon footprints,” Kepco vice president Jang-Pyo Lee noted.
Kepco’s current nuclear capacity stands at more than 17,700MW and accounts for 23 percent of its installed generation capacity; and gobbles up around 31 percent share in its generation mix. The company has 21 nuclear units – 20 units are already operating and one is undergoing test-commissioning.
As nuclear is certain about keeping its place in South Korea’s power generation universe, Mr. Lee acknowledged that more emphasis will be given on safety concerns, not only on the installations of additional nuclear reactors but also with the existing facilities.
“We will need to install more efficient and advanced technology against tsunami and other disasters to ensure safety and set contingency plans on our entire power system,” he enthused, referencing it on the context of Japan’s distressing nuclear mishap.
The Korean firm executive emphasized that the new nuclear units will be installed as expansion to its existing facilities. With nuclear in the spotlight, he admitted that it would be doubly hard securing “social acceptance” for any country which may opt for greenfield nuclear projects.
For its uranium fuel needs, it has been investing offshore for mine development as well as on enrichment. This is being done by the Korean firm in tandem with its need to satiate coal supply as this also takes up a chunk in its generation capacity.
“We started to invest overseas in uranium and coal mines, mainly in Indonesia, India, Australia and Canada. We have equity participation in these projects,” Mr. Lee said.
As it broadens the base of its nuclear portfolio, Kepco is also working on more permanent and efficient solutions in regard to waste disposal as well as the concern on reprocessing and recycling of spent fuel.
“We are building nuclear spent fuel storage. We are currently storing it at the site of the nuclear power plants, but that is an interim storage. Facilities will be completed very soon,” the company official said. It must be noted that Kepco has been among the first countries to offer the Philippines a hand when it was trying to revive its nuclear ambition years back.