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S. Korea OKs commercial operation of 21st nuclear reactor

South Korea's science and technology ministry said Wednesday that it has authorized the commercial operation of the country's 21st reactor after conducting detailed safety tests.

The ministry said checkups conducted by the state-run Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety showed the New Gori 1 reactor, located about 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, met all nuclear safety requirements.

"The notification has been forwarded to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. that will carry out the final administrative work to formally permit the reactor to go on-line this week," a ministry official said.

The new reactor, built at a cost of about 2.45 trillion won ($2.17 billion), is an indigenously built Optimized Power Reactor-1000 with power output rated at 1 million kilowatts.

Construction began in January 2005 with the science ministry giving permission to carry out limited operations in May of last year.

An identical reactor called the New Gori 2 is expected to go into operation in late 2011. The two units will help the country cut annual bituminous coal imports by around 4.4 million tons per year.

Seoul, which started commercial atomic energy operations in 1978, currently runs four nuclear power plants that generate about 36 percent of the country's power output. The country plans to have 28 commercial reactors in operation by mid-2017 to meet steadily growing energy needs. (Yonhap News)

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