Despite protest, old, rickety nuclear reactor restarted

Posted on : 2012-08-07 15:15 KST Modified on : 2012-08-07 15:15 KST
Locals worry over safety of Kori reactor No. 1, since it is old and has a history of malfunctioning

By Sin Dong-myeong, Ulsan correspondent

With the government restarting Kori Nuclear reactor no.1, local civic groups are protesting loudly, claiming the government is disregarding public safety.

At an August 6 press conference, civic groups from the Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang provinces area expressed great doubts about the findings of an investigation team that looked into the soundness of the pressure container at Kori’s Reactor No. 1.

The findings of the investigation team were cited by the government as grounds to restart the reactor. In restarting the reactor, the government also referred to the sudden rise in demand for electricity and the “understanding” of local residents.

About the team’s findings, the Busan Anti-Nuclear Civic Measures Committee said they were unreliable, since the team simply screened materials submitted by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP).

The committee said, “In particular, you need to investigate the surveillance capsules currently remaining in the pressure container in order to judge the container’s soundness, but the team did nothing more than analyze data from used surveillance capsules that were kept at Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI).”

The group also questioned the composition of the investigation team. “It was composed based on an agreement between the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE), KHNP and locals living near the plant, not with the consent of the people of Busan and Ulsan,” it said. “There are about 3.42 million people in Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang province living within a 30km radius of Kori’s reactor no.1. To exclude them from the very beginning was wrong.”

The committee said, “Recent surveys by Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Kim Jae-nam’s office and a polling institute attached to the Busan Federation for Environmental Movements respectively found 66.9% and 71.5% of Busan residents agreed that Kori’s Reactor No. 1 should be shut down.”

Energy Justice Actions said, “As there is ongoing debate over the safety of the pressure container, there needs to be sufficient consideration and discussion on the current state of Kori’s Reactor No. 1 followed by measures to deal with the reactor.”

Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Kim Jae-nam said, “The decision by MKE to restart the reactor at a time when we need measures at the parliamentary level revealed an executive arbitrariness that disregarded the National Assembly’s function to ensure the safety of the people.”

From the beginning, the MKE predicted electricity shortages, with actual electricity reserves - that is, electricity reserves minus demand management policies - falling to 1.44 million kW between the third and fourth weeks of August, when the corporate vacation period ends.

At a press conference July 26, MKE Hong Suk-woo hinted at restarting the reactor, saying, “It seems [the electricity situation] will be most difficult in the third and fourth weeks of August, and if we are to provide enough power at that time, the 580,000 KW Reactor No. 1 of Kori Nuclear Power Station must be restarted by Aug 3 at the latest.”

After Hong’s press conference, the MKE, KHNP and a delegation of local residents agreed on Aug 1 to form an investigation team composed of seven experts. That day, the team concluded there’d be no problem with restarting the reactor.

An MKE official said, “The people proposed by the residents - professors and experts in nuclear power, metals and materials - thoroughly examined research results on extending the life of Kori’s Reactor No. 1.”

Im Hui-ja, secretary general of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movements, said, “Even people who support nuclear energy hoped Kori’s Reactor No. 1, which is at the end of its lifespan, would be shut down at this time... We will continue a signature campaign calling for the reactor to be shut down.”

 

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

 

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