Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Research | By Elizabeth Houston

South Korea Retires Major Nuclear Reactor

South Korea Retires Major Nuclear Reactor

Our Kim In-kyung has more.

In a speech made during the official ceremony to mark the shutdown of the country's oldest nuclear power plant Moon promised to scrap existing plans for new nuclear plants, not extend the life of existing ones, shut down 10 old coal power plants and cancel new coal projects. (KOREAN) The permanent shutdown of the Kori-1 reactor is the first step toward a nuclear-free country. The president stressed that the government's energy policies in the future should focus on boosting public safety, environmental protection and sustainable growth. That was intensified by the 5.8-magnitude quake that struck the Korean city of Gyeongju previous year - an area not far from a number of nuclear plants.

Since the Kori 1 reactor went online in 1978, the resource poor-country added 24 nuclear power plants to meet rising demand for electricity from rapid industrialization and economic development.

He also said the government will seek to shut down the country's second-oldest nuclear reactor, the Wolsong No 1, as soon as possible depending on the country's power supply conditions.

South Korean nuclear technology is now an export business headed by the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Company, a subsidiary of the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), which is 51 percent owned by the South Korean government.

"We will abolish our nuclear-centred energy policy and move towards a nuclear-free era".

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Concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants due to earthquakes was one reason for the phase-out policy, Moon said.

Public support for nuclear power has been undermined by a local scandal in 2010 over forged certificates for spare parts and the 2011 Fukushima meltdown in neighbouring Japan.

Changes will not only mean the decommissioning of older reactors but also the suspension of work on new reactors.

The city of Busan on South Korea's southeastern coast said Monday it will strengthen cooperation with the Argonne National Laboratory, a research institute funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, on decommissioning nuclear reactors following the shutdown of a commercial nuclear reactor in the city. Even if South Korea starts the phase-out now, it will take several decades until the currently operating fleet of reactors reach the end of their operation, Moon noted. "We will make the energy industry a new growth engine for Korea", Moon said.

At the same time, spent nuclear fuel will be cooled for 6 to 7 years and then transferred by December 2025 to a yet-to-built dry storage facility able to store a total of 1,391 spent fuel bundles.

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