South Korea has achieved a stunning breakthrough in nuclear negotiations with the North. This agreement, assuming it holds, may free the South to commercialize technologies that recycle spent nuclear fuel. Prominent among these is DUPIC, which uses CANDU reactors to burn spent fuel from light water reactors. DUPIC is a joint effort between Atomic Energy Canada Limited, the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
A deal with the North has been a prerequisite for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to accept South Korea’s use of DUPIC under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). If the deal holds, South Korea will become DUPIC’s proving ground: though the South has four CANDUs, its nuclear fleet is dominated by light water.
Successful DUPIC demonstrations in South Korea would hugely increase CANDU’s attractiveness around the world. Rather than competing with light water technology in the once-through-fuel-cycle world—and constantly coming out on the losing end—CANDU with DUPIC could play an integral role in the worldwide nuclear renaissance.
But the deal with the North has to hold.