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ISSN : 1738-1894(Print)
ISSN : 2288-5471(Online)
Journal of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology Vol.19 No.1 pp.141-160

Preparation of the Applicable Regulatory Guideline on Mixed Waste in Korea Based on the Analysis of US Laws and Regulations

Eun-Jin Sim1, Sun-Kee Lee1, Chang-Lak Kim1*, Tae-Man Kim2
1Kepco International Nuclear Graduate School, 658-91, Haemaji-ro, Seosaeng-myeon, Ulju-gun, Ulsan, Republic of Korea
2Korea Radioactive Waste Agency,174, Gajeong-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, Republic of Korea
* Corresponding Author. Chang-Lak Kim, Kepco International Nuclear Graduate School, E-mail:, Tel: +82-52-712-7333

December 15, 2020 ; February 2, 2021 ; February 5, 2021


Unit 1 of the Kori Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and Unit 1 of the Wolsong NPP are being prepared for decommissioning; their decommissioning is expected to generate large amounts of intermediate-level, low-level, and very low level Waste. Mixed waste containing both radioactive and hazardous substances is expected to be produced. Nevertheless, laws and regulations, such as the Korean Nuclear Safety Act and Waste Management Act, do not define clear regulatory guidelines for mixed waste. However, the United States has strictly enforced regulations on mixed waste, focusing on the human health and environmental effects of its hazardous components. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy regulate the radioactive components of mixed waste under the Atomic Energy Act. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates the hazardous waste component of mixed waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. In this study, the laws, regulations, and authorities pertaining to mixed waste in the United States are reviewed. Through comparison and analysis with waste management laws and regulations in Korea, a treatment direction for mixed waste is suggested. Such a treatment for mixed waste will increase the efficiency of managing mixed waste when decommissioning NPPs in the near future.


    Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning(KETEP)

    1. Introduction

    1.1 Background

    Kori Unit 1 which was permanently shut down in June 2017 and Wolsong Unit 1 which was permanently shut down in December 2019 are preparing to decommission the nuclear power plants (NPPs). When decommissioning NPPs, it is expected that a larger amount of low-level radioactive wastes (LLW) and very-low-level radioactive waste (VLLW) will be generated. In particular, the amount of VLLW is expected to be about 60% of the total wastes [1]. And the generation of mixed waste (MW) is also expected to occur. The types of radioactive waste generated can be classified as follows [2]:

    • • Solid (large equipment, insulation, concrete chips, asbestos, etc.)

    • • Liquid (various waste liquids such as cooling water for spent nuclear fuel storage tanks)

    • • Gas (radioactive dust, aerosol, etc.)

    • • Mixed waste (waste oil, waste liquid, asbestos, lead, mercury, Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), insulating material, demineralized water contaminated sludge, etc.)

    since mixed radioactive waste contains both radioactivity and hazards, there are many considerations for treatment and disposal. However, there are no clear guidelines for MW in Korea. Clear regulations need to be developed to minimize the potential and negative effects of MW treatment that may occur during decommissioning.

    MW is defined as containing both radioactive and hazardous components in the United States of America (USA). MW has to be meeting LLW definitions. It also includes hazardous waste identified as a list in Subpart D of 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 261 or it contains LLW exhibits the characteristics of identified in Subpart C of 40 CFR Part 261 [3]. MW is generally produced through a variety of processes, including industrial, medical care and NPP facilities, etc. [4]. The hazardous waste components are usually organic solvents, metallic lead, chromate, and cadmium waste, or corrosive liquids. If these wastes exhibit hazardous properties or contain hazardous substances specified in 40 CFR Part 261, they may be regulated by Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) [5].

    In the United States, hazardous effects of MW on human health and the environment are expected to be fatal. Therefore, guidelines and test methods related to MWs are prepared and thoroughly managed. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regulate the radioactive component under the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) [6] while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the hazardous waste component under the RCRA [7].

    The purpose of this paper is to review the law and regulation related to the MW for the treatment and disposal in the United States, which has extensive experience in nuclear decommissioning and strictly manage hazardous wastes, and it was created to derive an applicable method for the MW in Korea.

    1.2 Regulatory approach

    Wastes and materials from the decommissioning of NPPs contain radioactive and non-radioactive components that may adversely affect humans and the environment [8]. Therefore the management of such waste and material should consider the radioactive and nonradioactive hazards [8].

    In the past, regulations considering the problem of chemical toxic substances in radioactive waste were relatively, but nowadays, there is a growing awareness that not only radiation effects but also non-radiation effects should be considered when managing waste [5]. In recent decades, research has been conducted to efficiently manage various radioactive wastes in countries using NPPs, and many countries establish and manage regulations according to the types of radioactive and non-radioactive waste [5]. Management standards vary by country and type of waste, but the premise of protecting human health and the environ ment is the same [4].

    In fact, in some countries, regulations are difficult because the management standards for radioactive and chemically hazardous waste are not consistent. In addition, if the organizations that manage radioactivity and non-radioactivity are different, regulations can become more complex. In general, MW contains radioactive and chemically toxic substances, so it may be difficult to meet regulatory standards [5].

    2. Laws and regulations related to the mixed waste in the USA

    MW is regulated by several agencies including EPA, NRC, and DOE. EPA is responsible for handling hazardous substances in MW. EPA requirements vary depending on the legal authority (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Toxic Substance Control Act, Comprehensive Envi- ronmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, etc.) in which the waste is regulated [9].

    Radionuclides are regulated under the AEA as amended. This law comprehensively allows NRC and DOE to regulate radioactive components. The AEA authorizes EPA to give radiation guidelines [7]. Therefore, EPA can be controlled for radioactive materials and controls. In fact, EPA manages radioactive mixed wastes that are expected to occur in three categories: Low-level mixed waste (LLMW), High-level mixed waste (HLMW), and Mixed transuranic waste (MTRU) [10]. The AEA generally authorizes NRC. The authority is to regulate the disposal of commercially produced radioactive waste and all HLWs. The AEA authorizes DOE facilities to produce and manage radioactive waste [6]. This includes LLW, TRU waste, LLMW, and MTRU waste, HLW, and accelerators–“Area 11 (e) by-products or naturally occurring radioactive substances (NORMs)” [6].

    2.1 History of laws and regulations

    NRC follows the AEA as amended in 1954 [6]. Congress established the Land Disposal Restriction (LDR) on Hazardous Waste and made EPA set standards for hazardous and solid waste. In other words, if EPA does not comply with the revised standards for hazardous waste, land disposal will be restricted in 1984 [11]. In 1986, EPA issued a notice clarifying RCRA jurisdiction over MW. Also, states in the USA stipulate that RCRA basic approval must be included MW [11]. Besides, a notice has been issued stating that existing facilities being stored or disposed of must acquire a temporary status under subtitle C of the RCRA, and MW generators must notify EPA [11].

    In addition, NRC and EPA jointly issued a testing guide related to MW, guiding clear guidelines that generators can handle in 1997 [12]. As such, the United States is making an effort to establish and revise laws and regulations considering the hazardous effects of the MW. The main laws and regulations required to manage mixed waste in the United States are described in Table 1, which manages MW from cradle to grave.

    2.2 Regulatory responsibility

    NRC regulates the commercial utilization and disposal of “sources, by-products or special nuclear material”. EPA regulates the storage, treatment, and disposal of materials containing hazardous chemicals as defined in the RCRA. MW must follow both AEA and RCRA requirements. Dual regulatory responsibility shown as table 2 has raised concerns in the federal, state, and private sectors and NRC and EPA recognized concerns about the application of excessive regulatory requirements.

    However, dual regulation is inevitable. In response to concerns, NRC and EPA have committed to making a joint approach to the issue of MW [13]. Joint efforts are as follows: (1) developments of joint guidance documents, (2) holding workshops for federal and state regulators, (3) development and support at the national level on the quantities, characteristics, and treatment possibility of MW [13]. Furthermore, DOE and EPA also signed a joint agreement to dispose of MW [14]. DOE has its regulations and the order applies to DOE sites and contractors. In October 1992, DOE developed a site treatment plan for MW disposal under EPA and authorized state reviews [14].

    Table 2 shows the management responsibilities of the agencies applicable to MW in the United States. Besides, each agency establishes standards and guidelines on MW according to relevant laws and regulates MW.

    2.3 EPA requirements

    Under the RCRA of 1976, EPA developed regulations to regulate hazardous waste. Unlike radionuclides, chemically hazardous non-radioactive waste requires management as its half-life is clear or unpredictable and is expected to last as long as the radioactive hazard [17]. The list and the standards of MW that generators and managers must meet are described in 40 CFR Part 260-265 [16-19]. The LDR has been described in 40 CFR Part 268 [20] and the licensing program is in 40 CFR Part 270 [21]. EPA provides definitions of hazardous waste, disposal standards. It should be satisfied before land disposal. Also, EPA provides standards for hazardous waste disposal facilities.

    The classification of MW is important to determine the treatment method of MW, the final waste form specification and special requirements. Hazardous waste is identified in 40 CFR Part 261 [17]. It is divided into “listed waste” and “characteristic waste”. In order to effectively treat hazardous waste, it is essential to understand the meaning of solid waste. Solid waste contains not only physically solid waste but also liquid, semi-solid, or contained gaseous substances. Materials cannot become a hazardous waste unless it meets the definition of solid waste, and is not subject to the RCRA Part C hazardous waste regulations. Listed waste is divided into F, K, and P, U. Specific regulations are followed 40 CFR Part 261.31/32/33.

    Characteristic waste has “ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity”. Toxicity Characteristic is described as a list of 40 constituents. It consists of seven metals (Pb, Cr, Cd, and Hg) and 33 pesticides and solvent [17]. Table 3 summarized regulations of the codes, test methods for the four characteristics. Further information can be found in the relevant regulations (40 CFR Part 261.21/22/23/24). The test method can be found in SW-846. Mainly this test is used to evaluate the physical and chemical properties of solid waste [20].

    In addition, EPA strictly restricted land disposal for hazardous waste. EPA has regulations to specifying such levels and treatment methods in accordance with RCRA Section 3,004 (m). It states that “Significantly has to reduce the toxicity and the potential for hazardous components to move from waste” [7]. The LDR of 40 CFR Part 268 applies to all hazardous waste. The LDR identifies the maximum concentration of hazardous components. It can be disposed of in the approved hazardous waste landfill or specifies how to dispose of the waste in the approved hazardous waste landfill [23]. The LDR covers the prohibition of dilution and storage of waste. And it includes requirements for final testing before disposal and requirements for tracking and recordkeeping “cradle-to-grave” waste [16].

    The clause presents the “Best Demonstrated Available Technology” (BDAT). This technique is the most effective techniques to reduce the inherent hazard and toxicity of hazardous substances in waste [24]. In accordance with this Act, LDR has set out BDAT treatment standards for [5]:

    • • Radioactive lead solids that have macroencapsulation

    • • Radioactive element mercury with a merged

    • • Radioactive hydraulic oil contaminated by mercury

    • • HLW generated during the reprocessing of vitrification

    EPA establishes specific treatment standards of waste codes. The treatment criteria are mainly based on concentration. It does not necessarily have to be BDAT, but producers need to be approved for removing chemical properties by presenting specific technologies [20]. The tests carried out must be in accordance with regulatory guidelines and recommendations.

    2.4 NRC requirements

    NRC has the authority to license and regulate the use of “source, by-product, and special nuclear materials” under the AEA [25]. NRC regulations do not specify provisions for MW. But basically, the radioactive portion of the MW is regulated in accordance with LLW. The regulations for MW can be described the licensing requirements of LLWs (10 CFR Part 61) [26] and Radiation Protection Standard (10 CFR Part 20) [27].

    NRC provisions permit land disposal close to the surface using a combination of normative and performancebased requirements (10 CFR Part 61.55–56). A near-surface disposal facility means that radioactive waste is disposed of within or within 30 m of the surface’s upper. Agency control of access is required for 100 years (10 CFR Part 61.7) [26].

    There are waste classification tables in 10 CFR Part 61.55. When determining the classification of radioactive waste, the radionuclide should be considered a response to potential hazards. Also, waste types, institutional controls, and effective disposal methods should be considered [28]. The physical form and characteristics are listed in Part 61.56(a). Waste shall not be packaged for disposal inboxes. Liquid waste shall be solidified or packaged with sufficient absorbent substance. Solid wastes containing liquids shall contain non-corrosive liquids. But the liquid should not exceed 1% of the volume in any case [28]. It must not be explosive or flammable in addition. Meanwhile, the main stability requirements are described in Part 61.56(b). The waste must have structural stability. Waste should be packaged with as little empty space as possible [28].

    Waste classified as Class A (minimum limit), B or C depends on the radionuclide present and its concentration. Radioactive half-life is the primary discriminator. Class A is classified if the concentration is less than 0.1 times the value in table 4 [28]. If it exceeds 0.1 times the value in table 4 but does not exceed the value in table 4, it is classified as Class C. Waste is not suitable for near-surface treatment if it is present in the waste at a concentration higher than table 4 of long-lived nuclides [28]. Therefore, MTRU is excluded from near-surface land disposal by NRC. Without long-lived radionuclides, significant concentrations of short-lived nuclides can be treated on the surface according to the provisions of table 4 and 5 [28]. If the concentration exceeds the Class C value, it cannot be treated for nearsurface disposal [28].

    NRC specifies the following exceptions for VLLW: 10 CFR Part 20.2002 is most commonly used to dispose of VLLW from hazardous or solid waste landfills allowed under the RCRA but can be used for all types of disposal [29]. The term “VLLW” has no legal or regulatory definition. This generally includes naturally occurring radionuclide and some residual radioactivity. 10 CFR Part 20.2002 is generally available to Class A waste licensees. In addition to wastes approved for disposal under 10 CFR Part 20.2002, various radioactive substances are disposed of in hazardous and solid waste landfills regulated under the RCRA [29]. Radioactive materials with a half-life of fewer than 65 days can be disposed of in landfills. It may include short-term nuclear medical radioactive isotopes, paper towels, bedding, and anything else from hospitals, or clinics. NRC determined that nuclides with a very short half-life would quickly disappear from dangerously [29]. NRC approves disposal of waste in consideration of disposal options and lower disposal costs while providing public health, safety, and environmental protection.

    2.5 DOE requirements

    DOE, authorized by the AEA, regulates the following substances concerning nuclear control [6]:

    • • Source material [IAEA, SECTION 11(z)]

      U, Th, and other nuclides determined by NRC as source material according to Section 61 of the AEA

    • • Special nuclear material [IAEA, SECTION 11(Aa)]

      Pu, a substance containing concentrated 233U or 235U, other substances determined by NRC under Section 51 of the AEA

    • • Byproduct material [IAEA, SECTION 11(e)]

      By-products contaminated by radiation in the process of producing or utilizing special nuclear materials but excluding special nuclear materials

    With regard to the definition of by-products, the DOE has issued a regulation that contains an interpretation of radioactive material containing hazardous substances in 10 CFR Part 962 (i.e. MW) [30]. According to this rule, the term any radioactive material for byproduct materials means only actual radionuclides present in the material. DOE reserves the authority under AEA for the actual radionuclides in byproduct material. However, any nonradioactive hazardous substances are subject to EPA regulations under the RCRA [6].

    DOE Order 5400.5 sets radiation exposure standards. These standards allow a total of 100 mrem·yr−1 exposure to the public. Of these, inhalation of particles in the air can only generate 10 mrem·yr−1, and exposure to radionuclides from drinking water is limited to 4 mrem·yr−1. Any disposed of radioactive or MW shall not contribute to public exposure in excess of these amounts. Also, all exposures should be limited to “as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA)” levels [23].

    DOE Order 5820.2A deals with the management of radioactive waste, including HLW, TRU waste, and LLW. It contains several provisions that meet and extend the regulatory standards established by NRC. Promulgated in 1988, this order mandates the application of the concept of waste minimization, including waste separation, to the design and operation of processes [23]. The DOE is presently selfregulating. In accordance with the provisions of the FFCA signed on October 6, 1992, DOE developed a Site Treatment Plan to handle MW following EPA’s review [10]. The DOE and EPA have signed to comply with the “Hanford Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order” and conducted studies to improve the disposal requirements for radioactive MW stored on the Hanford site [31].

    3. Forward direction of mixed waste laws and regulations in Korea

    In general, hazardous waste is subject to laws and regulations of the Ministry of Environment (MOE) in Korea. However, Environmental laws and regulations do not be applicable to radioactive waste. Therefore, radioactive waste is regulated by the Radioactive Waste Management Act under the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy (MOTIE) and Nuclear Safety Act (NSA) administered by the Nuclear Safety & Security Commission (NSSC). There are only comprehensive regulations related to radioactive waste. In other words, relevant laws and regulations do not provide clear guidance on hazardous materials. There are presently no regulations for MW.

    At the 2019 Nuclear Safety Regulation Information Conference [32], there was a discussion on the necessity of developing clear requirements for this as the current domestic standards prohibit the acquisition of hazardous substances.

    3.1 MOE requirements

    In the definition of environmental laws and regulations in Korea, it is stipulated that radioactive materials and resulting in contaminated materials under the Nuclear Safety Act are excluded. Main environmental laws and regulations in Korea are shown in table 6.

    The Waste Management Act describes designated waste. The wastes corresponding to NPPs such as oil, asbestos, PCBs, Toxic substances, etc. are shown in table 7. The regulations on the classification and identification of chemicals also specify criteria for the classification of hazardous substances. However, it excludes hazardous substances emitted from NPPs. Environmental laws regulate chemical toxic substances, but there are exceptions to radioactive waste regulations. This means that if hazardous waste is non-radioactive, it can be listed waste that should be separately managed, treated, and disposed of under environmental laws and regulations. However, all wastes discharged from NPPs are considered radioactive waste and are not regulated under environmental laws. The generator (KHNP) autonomically manages about the deregulated wastes on the same basis as general waste by applying the environmental guidelines.

    On the other hand, National Institute of chemical Safety (NICS) under the MOE discloses information on the names and hazards of chemical substances in relation to Article 42 of the Act on Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals and Article 51 of the Enforcement Regulations of the Act. NICS operates “National Chemicals Information System (NCIS)” to enable integrated search for chemical substances. The MOE has constructed and operates a comprehensive information system for chemical substances in accordance with the Article 48 of the Chemical Substances Control Act [34]. It is a comprehensive information portal that provides chemical substance handlers with information on chemical substance safety management information, chemical accident occurrence history and chemical accident response.

    In addition, all chemicals are managed by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency website for the prevention of industrial accidents under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. There are a total of 20,346 types of chemicals. If a chemical is to be handled or transported, information on the chemical must be searched. After checking the hazardous information for each material, an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) shall be prepared to handle the hazardous material. Those who transfer or provide chemicals shall prepare an MSDS. These include chemicals that meet the criteria for classifying physical risks, health, and environmental hazards. Each hazardous substance has a unique number. For example, Benzol is 71-43-2, KE-02150 [40].

    However, according to Enforcement Decree of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, radioactive substances emitted from NPPs are excluded from chemical substances. Chemical substances excluding hazard and risk investigations (Article 85), chemicals excluded preparation and submission of MSDS, etc. (Article 86) include radioactive substances under the Nuclear Safety Act. In other words, hazardous chemical substances generated from NPPs are not subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

    Unlike the United States, domestic environmental laws do not apply regulations on radioactive waste emitted from NPPs, and there are no regulatory standards for mixed wastes that contain both hazardous and radioactive materials. There is no definition of mixed waste in all relevant environmental laws and regulations, and mixed waste is not considered. However, the standard for incineration of radioactive waste only regulates the concentration of emissions by applying environmental laws to gases.

    3.2 NSSC requirements

    In Korea, radioactive MW cannot be disposed of in the radioactive waste repository due to its hazards, and radioactive wastes are excluded from the regulations under environmental law. Therefore, there is not enough the legal basis for disposing of hazardous waste emitted from NPPs. In other words, waste generators at NPPs must be disposed of in accordance with nuclear safety laws, even if they are hazardous waste. However, nuclear-related domestic laws only provide comprehensive standards for hazardous materials or do not specify any hazardous substances in the statute. Only the waste delivery clause can confirm the handling of hazardous waste. The detailed requirements of delivery are as follows. Waste should be in solid form to ensure safety during handling and after disposal. It should be physically and chemically stable and should not have fluidity. Waste must be corrosively mitigated and packaged to withstand corrosion. Wastes containing explosives, flammables, and ignitable substances should be properly disposed of to eliminate the risk. It should not impair the safety of workers. Wastes containing toxic or perishable and infectious substances should be eliminated from these hazards. More details are difficult to confirm.

    Table 10 are summarized the laws and regulations related to radioactive waste. Hazardous materials are not clearly stated in the laws and regulations. In addition, the regulations on MW are only defined in the guidelines for preparing the final decommissioning plan report.

    After reviewing the Nuclear Safety Act, Waste Management Act, etc., no clear classification criteria or treatment method for MW included hazardous waste was provided. Also, standards for the clearance of hazardous substances are not specified. Hazardous waste disposal is mentioned only in the waste delivery regulations and comprehensive standards are presented. In other words, Korea has not given strict consideration of hazardous waste when disposing of waste.

    However, KHNP is managing the deregulated waste by creating its internal chemical management guidelines in compliance with environmental laws. The MOE is only monitoring the disposal of radioactive wastes.

    3.3 Comparison of laws and regulations on mixed waste

    In the United States, general waste is managed by the state. And Hazardous waste is managed by EPA, radioactive waste is managed by NRC. Regarding radioactive waste, NRC regulates twofold under the AEA and EPA under the RCRA showed as Fig. 1. In the case of radioactive MW generated from NPPs, the entire process of generation, storage, treatment, transport, and disposal is under “strict” management by NRC and EPA [5].

    However, radioactive waste generated from NPPs in Korea is only regulated by the NSSC shown as Fig. 1. The MOE does not regulate radioactive hazardous waste. In the case of Korea, environmental regulations on waste generated from NPPs are insufficient rather than the U.S. environmental regulations.

    EPA has proposed regulatory standards for MW in environmental laws such as identification of MW, land disposal restrictions, treatment technology to remove toxicities, the Act on Toxicity Identification, and the Pollution Prevention Act, etc. On the other hand, Korea has not considered regulations on MW.

    In preparing the final decommissioning plan for Kori unit 1, the NSSC defined the MW. Other major relevant laws and guidelines do not even have a definition of MW. There is no identification standard for MW. In particular, nuclear laws do not provide clear regulatory standards for hazardous waste. Environmental laws regulate hazardous waste but exclude waste discharged from NPPs.

    In Korea, environmental regulations are similarly managed by referring to US environmental regulations. However, major environmental laws, such as the Waste Management Act and Chemical Substances Management Act, are excluded waste generating from NPPs. In other words, the MOE does not manage radioactive materials.

    Even in the case of the Nuclear Safety Act, there is a provision stating that when hazardous substances are generated, they are removed and disposed of. However, it does not provide clear legal guidelines. In other words, it is necessary to clear guidelines to regulate chemical hazards in the case of wastes generated from NPPs.

    Tables 12 and 13 are comparisons of major environmental and nuclear laws and regulations in the USA and Korea. The USA has “strict” environmental regulations with EPA’s authority on hazardous waste. However, the MOE in Korea does not regulate radioactive materials.

    In the USA, NRC and DOE are regulated on “hazardous waste” under the RCRA. The nuclear laws and regulations in Korea do not provide clear guidelines on hazardous waste.

    3.4 Applicability of regulation in Korea

    EPA and NRC strictly regulate MW’s hazardous effects on human health and the environment more seriously than the effects of radioactivity. Korea also should strictly manage MW by benchmarking the U.S. regulatory framework to protect people and the environment. If hazardous substances are detected in radioactive wastes, MOE should take part in regulation unlike the traditional methods regulated by NSSC. It is necessary to seek a plan to comply with the regulatory guidelines of the MOE.

    Fig. 2 shows the current waste disposal flow in Korea. Presently, radioactive waste is regulated only by the NSSC. Clearance waste from NSSC may be incinerated, reclaimed, or disposed of. The MOE only monitors waste disposal periodically. However, traditional waste disposal methods do not take into account hazardous MW.

    By the way, the current status does not have a clear legal guide, but KHNP manages hazardous materials in compliance with the Chemical Substance Control Act. Internal procedures have been established to manage hazardous waste from clearance waste by the NSSC. In addition, hazardous substances are managed efficiently using MSDS in accordance with the Chemical Substances Registration and Evaluation Act. For example, the PCB code number is 97-1-394 and a mixture containing 0.005% or more is treated as a toxic substance [40].

    Fig. 3 provides a more stringent regulation plan of MW that threatens people and the environment by benchmarking the USA case. Unlike the existing treatment method, when hazardous components are identified among the deregulated ILW, LLW, VLLW, the generator must immediately notify the MOE and follow the regulatory guidelines of MOE. When a hazardous component is found in clearance LILW, it is classified as MW. The MOE needs to present specific treatment standards for the removal of hazardous substances. Besides, the generator must treat the waste after receiving approval from the MOE that the hazardous components have been removed after neutralizing according to the guidelines of the MOE. At this time, it will be necessary to secure appropriate neutralization technology. In order to treat MW with Fig. 3, it is necessary to prepare clear guidelines explaining the identification form of the MW, treatment, and disposal. In addition, it is necessary to prepare clear waste acceptance criteria for treating and disposing of MW. Furthermore, securing technology capable of treating MW should be given priority.

    The proposed treatment options will help strictly manage hazardous materials. Table 14 describes proposals for strict regulation of radioactive hazardous materials under the Environmental Act and the Atomic Energy Act.

    4. Conclusion

    In Korea, radioactive MW cannot be disposed of in a radioactive waste repository due to its hazards. KHNP, which is expected to generate a large amount of radioactive waste due to decommissioning, needs thorough preparation for the treatment of radioactive waste. It is necessary to establish appropriate regulatory standards in Korea by benchmarking the cases of the United States with extensive experience in decommissioning the NPPs. The USA has strict management of MW based on dual regulations by EPA, NRC, and DOE.

    However, Korea has yet to set clear standards for MW. Major environmental laws in Korea, such as Waste Management Act and the Chemical Substance Control Act, do not regulate radioactive waste generated from NPPs. Radioactive waste from NPPs is regulated by the MOTIE and the NSSC under the Radioactive Waste Management Act and the Nuclear Safety Act. Therefore, strict management of hazardous MW is required by benchmarking the U.S. case. For the strict management of hazardous chemicals, including MW, when disposing of wastes containing hazardous substances, a procedure for obtaining approval from the MOE must be established. The definition of MW should be included in the domestic environmental laws and appropriate regulatory standards should be established.

    This report presents a treatment plan for the treatment and disposal of MW. If hazardous substances occur in ILW, LLW, or VLLW that are not deregulated, they shall be considered as MW and strictly managed. The producer shall notify the MOE immediately after the discovery of the hazardous substance and submit a plan to remove the hazardous substance. Also, the disposal of radioactive hazardous materials will be required approval from the MOE. At this time, the MOE needs to present standards and treatment methods for strict control over radioactive hazardous materials. In particular, the MOE, the MOTIE, and the NSSC should discuss and review identifying MW, establishing regulatory standards for MW, supporting the development of hazardous material removal technologies, and establishing specific Waste Acceptance Criteria for MW disposal.


    This work was supported by the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP) grant funded by the Korea government (MOTIE). The Project Number is 20193210100120 and the title of project is “Development of waste acceptance criteria application and WCP requirements for disposal of the NPPs decommissioning radioactive waste solidification treatment”.



    Comparison of MW regulation framework the USA [47] and Korea.


    Current status for waste treatment in Korea


    Proposal of treatment option for MW in Korea.


    Major chronological laws or regulations related to MW in the USA [9]

    Management responsibilities and laws applicable to MW in the USA [14]

    Summary of hazardous waste characteristics [17]

    Concentrations of long-lived radionuclides (by 10 CFR Part 61.55) [28]

    Concentrations of short-lived radionuclides (by 10 CFR Part 61.55) [28]

    Environmental laws and regulations in Korea

    Types of listed wastes containing hazardous material [33]

    General marginal concentrations [37]

    Criteria of acute toxicity [37]

    Nuclear laws and regulations in Korea

    Restriction of radioactive concentration of LLW [44]

    Comparison of environmental regulations on MW

    Comparison of nuclear regulations on MW

    Proposal of regulations for mixed waste management

    List of abbreviations


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