Construction of two Korean reactors put on hold

14 July 2017

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) has decided to temporarily suspend construction of units 5 and 6 at the Shin Kori nuclear power plant in south-eastern Korea. The move comes two weeks after South Korean President Moon Jae-in issued an administrative order to halt construction of the reactors.

Shin Kori 5 and 6 - 460 (KHNP)
An artistic impression of how Shin Kori 5 and 6 could look (Image: KHNP)

President Moon last month outlined his intended nuclear energy phase-out policy. Moon was one of seven candidates in the May presidential election who signed an agreement in March for a "common policy" for phasing out the country's use of nuclear energy. At a ceremony on 19 June to mark the permanent shutdown of Kori 1, he said plans for new power reactors will be cancelled and the operating periods of existing units will not be extended beyond their design life. At that time, Moon said he would reach a "social consensus" as soon as possible on whether the construction of Shin Kori 5 and 6 will proceed.

Following a board meeting today, KHNP said it will suspend construction work on the two APR1400 units for a three-month period as soon as the government-appointed committee is formed to discuss South Korea's nuclear energy policy. Should the committee fail to reach a decision within that time, KHNP said its board will meet again to reassess its suspension of the construction work.

Worker protests

The KHNP board had been due to meet at KHNP's headquarters in Gyeongiu yesterday to make a decision on suspending work on Shin Kori 5 and 6. However, the meeting had to be cancelled as seven of the board's 13 directors were prevented from entering the building by "hundreds of union workers", the Korea Times reported. The board meeting was instead held today at a nearby hotel.

Union leader Kim Byung-gi said workers will not accept the decision by the board, saying the union will take all possible measures until its demands are met. "The board's decision is not legally binding" he said. "The union and concerned residents will not remain idle. We will continue to protest untilĀ matters are rectified."

Although first safety-related concrete has yet to be poured for Shin Kori 5 and 6, KHNP noted that work on the foundations of the reactor buildings - which it says is very important for reactor safety - will "inevitably" be completed by the end of August.

KHNP said it expects the temporary suspension to cost it about KRW100 billion ($88 million) for maintaining equipment and the construction site. The company said it plans to carry out "special safety measures, such as construction site inspections, equipment cleaning, anti-rusting and packaging by making full use of the local labour force so that quality problems will not occur in the future" as a result of the suspension of construction work. KHNP added it will "take measures with partner companies to minimise the cost and impact on the local economy".

The construction of Shin Kori 5 and 6 was approved by South Korea's nuclear regulator last June. Actual construction of the reactors was due to start this year. The 1400 MWe units are scheduled to begin operating in March 2021 and 2022, respectively.

In late May, KHNP announced that it had suspended design work for the planned units 3 and 4 at the Shin Hanul plant - also APR1400 units - until the government policy on the construction of new nuclear power plants is confirmed.

South Korea has 24 power reactors in operation with a combined generating capacity of 22,505 MWe. Together they provide about one-third of the country's electricity.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News