Smoke at Kori reactor the latest case of danger at a nuclear plant

Posted on : 2015-05-30 13:49 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Civic groups calling on government to shut down old plants and not build any new reactors
 May 29. (provided by the committee)
May 29. (provided by the committee)

Three incidents of fires and smoke at Kori Nuclear Power Plant in Busan over the past seven months are stirring up longstanding fears over nuclear power.

The latest episode occurred at around 7:54 pm on May 28, when 25 fire trucks from the Busan Metropolitan City Fire Safety Headquarters were sent in after smoke was discovered in the third-floor air compressor room in the turbine building for Reactor 2.

The trucks immediately returned to their base after the smoke was found to have been controlled by the plant’s own firefighting personnel, who had been first to discover it. The control took nine minutes after the smoke’s first discovery.

Based on the blackened condition of the air compressor room’s belts, firefighters suspect the smoke was the result of friction between belts connected to the compressor generator. They are now conducting a close investigation into potential causes of the friction.

Despite the smoke from the compressor room, the plant’s operator, the public enterprise Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, continued operating the plant, claiming that the room in question was not part of “system one” for nuclear power generation.

“In system one cases, the plant automatically shuts down,” explained the Kori area office of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, which regulates nuclear safety. “Even in some system two cases, operation may temporarily shut down if it has to do with the turbine, which affects power generation.”

“The air compressor room is part of system two and it’s not in the turbine system, so there’s no need to shut down,” the office added. “They would just need to replace the parts once they find out what caused the smoke.”

On May 29, a press conference was held at the entrance to Busan City Hall by the Anti-Nuclear Busan Citizens’ Action Committee (which represents around 60 civic groups in Busan), the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, the Justice Party, and the Green Party.

“Kori Reactor 2 is the third-oldest nuclear reactor in South Korea and has been running for 32 years. The government needs to come to an accurate understanding of the cause of the accident and take measures to prevent it from reoccurring,” the groups said during the press conference.

”The government should scrap its plans to build new reactors, such as Shin Kori Reactors 3 and 4, which would endanger the citizens of Busan. It should also immediately shut down Kori Reactor 1 instead of attempting to extend its lifetime,” the groups added.

“We can no longer overlook the accidents that occur so frequently at the Kori Nuclear Plant. Kori Reactor No. 1 has reached the end of its lifetime, and it must be immediately shuttered. The lifetime for Kori Reactor 2 will be ending in 2023, and that must not be extended either. In addition, the new reactors that are being planned must not be built in Busan. The law should be revised so that the government has to get the permission of the head of local government before it decides to build a new reactor or reactivate an old reactor or extend its lifetime,” said Kim Yeong-chun, chair of the Busan chapter of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

At 4:26 pm on Nov. 11, 2014, a fire started when a hot-air dryer overheated at the loading and unloading dock for waste on the first floor of the fuel building at Kori Reactor No. 4. An employee who was making the rounds spotted the fire and extinguished it 14 minutes later.

At 8:23 pm on Mar. 31 of this year, a fire stated at a water pump inside the turbine building at Kori Reactor 3. This was put out by a fire truck half an hour later.

By Kim Kwang-soo, Busan correspondent

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

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