South Korea bolsters reactor safety

09 May 2011

Safety inspections at South Korea's nuclear power reactors have concluded that they are safe against the largest earthquakes and tsunamis that have struck the country so far. However, a massive investment programme has been announced aimed at reinforcing their defences.


In response to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March, South Korea's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) conducted safety reviews at all of its operating nuclear power reactors.


Ju-Ho Lee, minister of education, science and technology, reported that inspections were conducted between 23 March and the end of April. These inspections considered the worst accident scenario in the event of a natural disaster. They focussed on six primary areas - including cooling systems - with a total 27 items being checked.


These inspections, Lee said, showed that all of the current units could withstand the maximum strength quake or tsunami so far predicted to occur in South Korea. However, he noted that the inspections identified a total of 50 short- and long-term measures that could be taken to improve safety.


Lee said that, in order to prepare for the worst-case natural disaster, the ministry will spend some one trillion won ($1 billion) over the next five years to bolster safety measures at nuclear power plants.


Among the investments to be made include increasing the height of the sea wall at the Kori plant - the country's oldest - from the current 1.7 metres to 4.2 metres. In addition, the ministry will ensure that existing emergency power generating facilities and water pumping systems at reactors are water tight, should a plant be inundated by a tsunami. Furthermore, it will ensure that a mobile emergency electricity generator is provided for each of the country's operating reactors in case onsite generators became unavailable.


Additionally, in the event of fuel damage, systems will be set up at each reactor for the elimination of hydrogen gas, explosions of which caused severe damage to at least two of the Fukushima Daiichi reactor buildings. Lee also said that the number of remote environmental radiation detecting points in the country would be increased from 71 to 120.


South Korea's 21 operating reactors, with a combined electrical generating capacity of 18.7 gigawatts (GWe), provide almost 40% of its electricity. A further five units are currently under construction.


Researched and written 

by World Nuclear News