The move is part of government plans to access a global decommissioning market that it believes could be worth about €410bn ($445bn) by the end of the decade.
According to press reports, the institute will be built on two sites. The main site, between Bulsan and Ulsan in the southeast of the country, will develop technologies for light-water reactors. A second site, near the southeastern coastal city of Gyeongju, will develop technologies for heavy-water reactors.
South Korea’s government-funded Yonhap news agency said the institutes will also “provide the necessary test platforms and talent reserves” for commercialisation of decommissioning technology.
Yonhap quoted the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy as saying the cost of the project will be 322.3 billion won (about €222m, $241m). Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and other public institutions will invest about 194 billion won to establish legal entities and the central government will meet the 128-billion-won cost of equipment.
South Korea has 24 nuclear power plants in commercial operation, of which 21 are light-water reactors and three, at Wolsong nuclear power station, are heavy-water reactors.
Two plants, one PWR at Kori-1 and one PHWR at Wolsong-1, have been permanently shut down.
Yonhap pointed out that there are about 450 nuclear power plants in operation worldwide – the International Atomic energy Agency figure is 442 – of which 305 have been in operation for more than 30 years. It said that after mid-2020, the global nuclear power plant decommissioning market will be worth about €410bn.
According to Yonhap, only the US, Germany and Japan have significant experience in decommissioning nuclear power plants and of 173 permanently shut down plants, only 21 have been completely dismantled.