S. Korea halts two more reactors over faulty parts

May 28, 2013 by Park Chan-Kyong
Shin-Kori 3 and 4 reactors under construction at South Korea's Gori nuclear power plant in February. South Korea on Tuesday shut down two nuclear reactors and delayed the scheduled start of operations at two more, prompting government warnings of "unprecedented" power shortages.

South Korea on Tuesday shut down two nuclear reactors and delayed the scheduled start of operations at two more, prompting government warnings of "unprecedented" power shortages.

The latest move, part of a widening investigation into a scandal involving parts provided with fake safety certificates, means 10 of the South's 23 nuclear reactors are currently offline for various reasons.

"Power shortages on an unprecedented scale are feared this summer," the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement, adding that replacing suspect parts could take up to four months.

Blackout alerts, triggered automatically when power reserves dip below a certain level, were highly likely and power shortages could be "very serious" in August, the statement said.

The ministry said it would "strongly" enforce measures to reduce , including rescheduling working hours to stagger demand and limit damaging peaks.

President Park Geun-Hye expressed "great concern" about the prospect of power shortages and ordered a full, transparent probe into the case.

"Nuclear power (safety) is a very important issue linked directly with the safety of our people," she told a cabinet meeting.

At proper capacity, 's nuclear reactors supply more than 35 percent of national electricity needs.

A safety drill at the Gori nuclear power plant. South Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission said it had shut down two reactors—one at the Gori nuclear complex and another at the Wolseong plant—after learning that both had used parts supplied with forged warranties.

The and Security Commission said it had shut down two reactors—one at the Gori nuclear complex and another at the Wolseong plant—after learning that both had used parts supplied with forged warranties.

The scheduled resumption of another reactor under maintenance at Gori, and the start of a new reactor at Wolseong were postponed for the same reason, the commission said.

Parts used at all four reactors would have to be replaced, it added.

All parts supplied for use in South Korean reactors require quality and safety warranties from one of 12 international organisations designated by Seoul.

Last year, officials said eight suppliers were found to have faked warranties covering thousands of items used in a number of reactors. Earlier this month six nuclear engineers and suppliers were jailed for their part in the scandal.

Although the suspect parts were "non-core" components that presented no public safety risk, the authorities instigated an inspection of all reactors nationwide.

Tuesday's ministry statement said further criminal and civil lawsuits would be filed against any organisation or individual found to have forged documents.

"Criminal investigation will also be requested for wrongdoing by suppliers, testing agencies and organisations in charge of verification," including the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., it added.

South Korea's nuclear sector has been dogged by a series of malfunctions, forced shutdowns and corruption scandals that have undermined public confidence already shaken by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

In May last year, five senior officials of the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. were charged with trying to cover up a potentially dangerous power failure at the country's oldest Gori-1 reactor.

Despite increasing public concern, the government has vowed to push ahead with its programme, and plans to build an additional 16 by 2030.

Explore further: Japan nuclear reactor atop active fault: regulator

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3 / 5 (4) May 28, 2013
You know - I've expressed anti-nuclear sentiments often enough here.
It may come as a surprise that I DO think nuclear is cool (much like I think bioweapons technology is cool) - from the technology standpoint.

But this article pretty much underlines the major problem: The difference between a 'theoretically safe' technology on paper and the actual implementation of said technology.

And no matter how much pro-nuclear people will harp on 'theoretical safety': Construction always goes to the lowest bidder.
No matter what kind of laws and safety measures are enacted the lowest bidder will find a loophole or try outright shenannigans (which enables him to BE the lowest bidder) and that loophole will come back to bite you in such a complex system.

And nuclear reactors, once built, aren't easily revamped. The closer you get to the core the less so.

3 / 5 (2) May 28, 2013
Anything involving humans is bound to involve greed. I think nuclear power can be trusted, NOT!
1.8 / 5 (5) May 28, 2013
And no matter

Actually it matters a lot, even tough there will always be shenanigans, safety measures can make huge difference in their negative impact and frequency. Perfection is impossible and not even required. There comes a point when it is more likely that a wind turbine falls on your head, and we are closer to that point than many think, particularly for modern reactors.

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