South Korea reactor automatically shuts down; six now off

Reuters, SEOUL

Fri, Nov 29, 2013 - Page 6

A “safety-related action” automatically shut down one of South Korea’s 23 nuclear reactors yesterday, the nation’s nuclear operator said, bringing the tally of those closed to six and increasing the chances of power blackouts this winter.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy faces severe power shortages again this winter due to cuts in nuclear power use after a corruption scandal that started late last year.

“We are now looking into the cause of [yesterday’s] shutdown and it is not yet clear when the reactor will restart,” a spokesman at operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power said.

Operation of the 587-megawatt Kori No. 1 reactor, more than 300km southeast of Seoul, was suspended early yesterday morning.

The reactor, which started operation in 1978, had recently returned from nearly 180 days of scheduled maintenance through Oct. 5, according to KHNP’s Web site.

The unit’s license to operate was extended another 10 years at the end of 2007, another KHNP spokesman said.

South Korea has been striving to curb power demand ahead of winter amid the cutbacks in nuclear power, which provides about a third of the nation’s electricity.

The Cabinet had been set to discuss winter power supply measures yesterday, but the meeting was delayed up to the middle of next month to give officials more time to draw up the plan, spokespeople in the prime minister’s office said.

“With no knowledge of the fate of the three, it is hard to plan winter power supply,” said an energy ministry source who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to media.

Six nuclear reactors are now offline, including three shut because of control cables supplied with fake safety certificates, according to information on the KHNP Web site.

A fourth is awaiting an extension of its license after its 30-year life span expired in November last year.

A fifth is shut for scheduled maintenance through the end of next month.