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Seoul gives green light to two nuclear reactors

Jan. 29, 2014 at 1:49 PM   |   Comments

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The South Korean government has granted final approval to build two nuclear reactors at the Shin Kori Nuclear Power Plant in Ulsan, about 255 miles southeast of Seoul.

Construction on the $7.09 billion project is scheduled for September, with completion slated for December 2020, Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday. Each reactor will have a generation capacity of 1.4 million kilowatts.

Yonhap reported Reactor Unit 5 at the Hanul Nuclear Power Plant came to an automatic halt Wednesday morning after a warning signal was activated at the facility, 205 miles southeast of Seoul.

"The reactor currently remains stable," Yonhap quoted a Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. official as saying. The official, whose name was not reported, said an investigation was in progress and may take up to two days.

It is the second time since July operations at Hanul's No. 5 reactor have had to be halted due to problems.

South Korea operates 23 nuclear reactors, generating about 30 percent of the country's electricity.

A long-term energy plan finalized this month calls for reducing the target for nuclear energy to 29 percent of total power supply by 2035. The previous government had called for an increase in nuclear energy supply to 41 percent by 2030.

The reduction comes amid increasing concerns about the safety of nuclear power after Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, and discontent among South Koreans following a scandal over bribery and faked safety tests for the country's reactors.

"The public has totally lost trust in nuclear power," Suh Kyun-ryul, a professor of atomic engineering at Seoul National University, was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.

Even the government's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, in a report to lawmakers last year, acknowledged the scope of the country's nuclear power scandal.

"In the past 30 years, our nuclear energy industry has become an increasingly closed community that emphasized its specialty in dealing with nuclear materials and yet allowed little oversight and intervention," the report stated. "It spawned a litany of corruption, an opaque system and a business practice replete with complacency."

Yet, South Korea's long-term energy plan finalized this month says the country needs to build at least 12 additional nuclear reactors by 2024 to maintain the proportion of electricity supplied by nuclear reactors at around 30 percent.

Construction on five new reactors, including Shin Kori Reactor units 3 and 4, is already under way.

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