2017-07-14 21:02
KHNP approves Shin Kori reactor suspension
Union, residents vow to stage all-out protest

By Lee Hyo-sik

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power’s (KHNP) board members voted Friday to suspend the construction of reactors 5 and 6 at the Shin Kori Nuclear Power Plant, fueling a dispute over the government’s push to phase out nuclear power.

KHNP CEO Lee Kwan-seop and 12 other board members met at the Suites Hotel in Gyeongju, South Gyeongsang Province, at 8:30 a.m. Friday. They approved the suspension of the construction project until an ad hoc committee, consisting of private sector experts, reaches a consensus on the future of the two reactors.

The directors decided to halt the scheme for three months after the formation of the committee. They also agreed to meet again and decide what to do if the committee fails to reach a decision.

The gathering, which lasted for an hour and a half, was organized at the hotel, not at KHNP headquarters, which has been surrounded by hundreds of union workers since early Thursday.

Of the 13 directors, 12 voted for the suspension, while Cho Sung-jin, a professor at Kyungsung University’s department of energy science in Busan, alone voted against it, according to the KHNP report.

The report said Cho opposed suspending the Shin Kori construction, arguing against it by citing his research knowhow and expertise in the fields of nuclear power and renewable energy.

KHNP had initially planned to hold the board meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday but the seven outside directors weren’t able to take part as unionized workers physically stopped them from entering the building.

The meeting was called to deal with the reactors, two weeks after President Moon issued an administrative order to stop construction. Moon has been pledging to scrap all plans to build new nuclear reactors in order to make Korea nuclear free.

The state-run company, which oversees the Shin Kori project, estimates the temporary suspension will incur about 100 billion won in losses ($87 million) as it has to compensate contractors for their losses and maintain the construction site.

“We will closely consult with contractors over the extent of losses stemming from the halt,” a KHNP official said. “We will also discuss measures to minimize its fallout on the regional economy.”

The official said KHNP will continue to manage the site during the suspension period so construction can restart smoothly if it should be resumed.

However, the decision has been drawing fierce protests from the KHNP labor union and residents near the plant site.

Union leader Kim Byung-gi said workers will not accept the decision by board members, saying the union will take all possible measures until its demands are met.

“KHNP board members abruptly held the meeting at a third place to deceive people,” Kim said. “The board’s decision is not legally binding. The union and concerned residents will not remain idle. We will continue to protest until things are rectified.”

The Shin Kori suspension has also invited protest from builders and other contractors taking part in the project.

A consortium led by Samsung Construction & Trade has been protesting the halt. The company claims KHNP unilaterally stopped the project without a legitimate reason while failing to suggest any plans to reimburse them for additional expenses caused by the measure.

The other two main contractors, Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction and SK Engineering & Construction, are also demanding appropriate compensation from KHNP if the project is halted.


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