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IAEA gives green light to Kori nuclear reactor

The International Atomic Energy Agency gave on Monday a green light to the country’s oldest nuclear power reactor to continue operation after a week-long safety check.

Civic groups protested the inspection result, calling for a permanent shut-down of the plant which suffered a blackout in early February.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog announced that the Kori No.1 reactor in the northern part of Busan was satisfactory in a series of safety tests carried out by a team of international experts.

“The Kori Nuclear Power Plant has implemented several equipment replacements and upgrades to allow continued safe operation,” the delegation said in a statement Monday.

The inspection started on June 4 at the request of the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in response to the increased public anxiety following the incident.

The IAEA inspection team noted that some of the contributing causes identified by the expert mission include the “inability to counter the errors in handling the station blackout event and the subsequent leadership failures in communication and reporting.”

“The expert mission team made recommendations to address these contributing factors,” they noted.

During its inspection, the IAEA team also asked the operator to replace the worn-out pressure vessel in the reactor, which was thought to be the main cause of the power cut. But apart from that, the IAEA panel approved the reactor, saying it is safe for continued use.

Activists in Busan dismissed the IAEA’s inspection as “totally without value.”

“The IAEA’s safety inspection was thoroughly planned with the KHNP to deceive the public. They had concluded it is ‘safe’ and could ‘reactivate,’ prior to the inspection, so it has no legitimacy,” the environmental groups, including the No-nukes Busan Citizen Countermeasure Commission, said in a joint statement on Monday.

A power cut on Feb. 9 forced a temporary shut-down of the Kori No. 1 nuclear reactor that began operation in 1978. The power cut did not lead to any damage, but it caused a public uproar as the engineers were found to have tried to cover up the mishap.

The country’s oldest nuclear power plant had completed its life span in 2007. But it was granted a 10-year extension in 2008, following an inspection by the IAEA.

Korea currently operates 21 nuclear reactors with seven others under construction, and of the 21 operational reactors, nine have been running for more than two decades.

Last week, the IAEA panel also concluded the Wolseong nuclear plant is safe for use after an inspection of the reactor in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

The No. 1 reactor of the Wolseong plant started operation in 1983 and its life span is due in November this year.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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