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2017-06-18 17:45
Nation's first nuke reactor Kori 1 shuts down
The Kori 1 nuclear reactor in Gijang County in Busan, right, halted operations, Saturday. / Yonhap

By Kim Bo-eun

Korea’s first commercial nuclear reactor, Kori 1 in Busan’s Gijang County, shut down at midnight Sunday, 40 years after it went online.

The reactor, which began temporary operations in 1977 and started commercial operations in 1978, has been shut down due to safety issues due to frequent breakdowns.

The reactor’s operations were halted at 6p.m., Saturday. Its power supply line has been cut off and the reactor is undergoing a cooling process.

The reactor’s 30-year design life expired in 2007, but it received a 10-year extension in operations from the government until June 18 this year.

The Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) had been attempting to push for a second 10-year extension since 2015, but faced a fierce backlash from local residents and civic groups, which raised safety concerns.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy subsequently advised a permanent shutdown of the reactor in June 2015, and the KHNP withdrew its plan for another extension.

The shutdown was finalized after the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission voted for an approval on June 9.

Over Kori 1’s 40 years of operation, it generated 150,000 gigawatts of energy, which is 34 times Busan’s annual average energy consumption.

The actual decommissioning will begin in 2022, because drawing up decommission plans and nuclear fuel cooling and release, as well as safety management takes five years.

The process will begin with decontaminating the facility to reduce residual radioactivity. The structure will then be dismantled and contaminated materials removed for safe disposal. Used nuclear fuel needs to be stored before it can be disposed. Disposing used nuclear fuel will be an issue, because Korea currently has no such facilities. The final stage of decommissioning involves cleaning up the plant site.

The decommissioning is expected to be completed in 2032.

The KHNP estimates decommissioning costs will amount to around 63.47 billion won ($559 million).

Meanwhile, civic groups and the local government are welcoming the shutdown.

A civic group against nuclear energy held a concert celebrating Kori 1’s shutdown at Seomyeon, central Busan, Sunday.

The Busan Metropolitan Government also held an event at Song Sang-hyeon Plaza for the same cause.

However, scholars claim Korea needs nuclear energy. Scholars who advocate nuclear energy released a statement on June 8, stating Korea needs nuclear energy in order to maintain its low electricity costs. They also cited that nuclear energy does not generate fine dust or greenhouse gases.

With the reactor’s shutdown, attention is being drawn to President Moon Jae-in’s roadmap for eliminating nuclear energy. President Moon has pledged to close down all nuclear plants in the country over the next 40 years.

bkim@ktimes.com

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