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IAEA to conduct inspection of Gori-1 blackout

   ULSAN -- South Korea's oldest nuclear reactors at the Gori-1 nuclear plant will come under a special inspection from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week, the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) said Sunday.

   The KHNP said that the IAEA will conduct an expert mission on the Gori-1 reactors from June 4-11 to look into its blackout accident in February, adding the mission will be led by Miroslav Lipar, the head of the IAEA's Industrial Safety Department, and consist of eight experts from seven countries.

   One of Gori's two reactors lost power for 12 minutes on Feb. 9 during a safety inspection. The power cut did not lead to any accidents, but it didn't come to light until March and regulators found that some senior engineers had covered it up for more than a month.

   Since the accident, local residents and activists have persistently demanded that the superannuated reactor be closed and suspect that the upcoming IAEA inspection could be a procedural step to keep the Gori-1 reactors running.

   Last week, five senior engineers at the Gori-1 nuclear power plant were indicted for allegedly attempting to cover up the February blackout.

   At the time of the blackout, an emergency back-up diesel generator also failed, but the engineers did not fix it until Feb.

13 because if they had repaired the back-up generator, it would have revealed the power cut, according to prosecutors.

   Also on Feb. 10, they removed nuclear fuel inside the Gori reactor, despite the failure of the emergency generator, a major wrongdoing in what prosecutors described as "total safety insensitivity" among Gori officials.

   Last week, a report by the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement and the No Nukes Busan Citizen Countermeasure Commission showed that up to 900,000 people would perish and property damage would reach 628 trillion won ($532.7 billion) if an accident similar to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster occurs at the Gori-1 plant, which is running now beyond its technological life span.

(Yonhap News)

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