KURT is a generic URL with a total length of 551 m and six research modules. The maximum depth of the tunnel is about 120 m from the surface. The host rock is granite, which is considered as a potential host rock type for HLW disposal repository in Korea. Various in-situ tests and experiments have been carried out since 2007, and tracer test and In-DEBS are two representative experiments that are being carried out in KURT. The research experiences gained using KURT are providing important information to validate the safety and feasibility of the deep disposal system. KURT is currently playing a major role in the development and demonstration of the proposed disposal concept and technologies, and particularly public acceptance.

1. Introduction

KAERI (Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute) has developed a deep geological disposal system for high-level radioactive waste (HLW) through a long-term research project since 1997. KAERI is currently developing an advanced Korean reference disposal system (A-KRS) and its related technologies for HLW from the advanced fuel cycle system, which include pyro-processing of PWR spent nuclear fuel (KAERI, 2011). To dispose HLW safely in geological formations, it is necessary to assess the feasibility, safety, appropriateness, and stability of the disposal concept at an underground research laboratory (URL) constructed in deep geological formation as the desired host rock.

The Planning Committee for the Korean Nuclear Energy R&D Programme decided to construct a small-scale generic underground research facility at the KAERI site to experimentally investigate the proposed disposal concept and relevant technologies in underground conditions in 2003. The phase I facilities of the KAERI Underground Research Tunnel (KURT) were constructed in November 2006 based on the decision, and various in-situ tests and experiments have been carried out since 2007 (Cho et al., 2008). The extension work for the planned tests and experiments of the phase II programme was completed in 2015. KURT is a generic URL, and not a potential site for waste disposal. The main geology of the KURT site is crystalline rock such as granite, and it is not allowed to conduct any experiments using radioactive nuclides in KURT. In this paper, the current status and representative activities of KURT, and KURT's role in HLW disposal technology development in Korea, are described.

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