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Opposition party asks for criminal probe into nuke reactor retirement

People Power Party Floor Leader Rep. Joo Ho-young (Yonhap)
People Power Party Floor Leader Rep. Joo Ho-young (Yonhap)
The main opposition party will ask law enforcement authorities to investigate government officials involved in a nuclear reactor’s early retirement last year who allegedly obstructed the state watchdog’s audit into the decision-making process, its leader said Wednesday.

People Power Party Floor Leader Rep. Joo Ho-young said in a party meeting Wednesday that the party will report all related officials who “abused authority” to push for the closure of the Wolsong-1 reactor in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, and who “destroyed official documents” in their efforts to disturb the audit.

The remarks came a day after the Board of Audit and Inspection announced results of its inspection on the matter. The BAI said the reactor’s economic viability was unreasonably underestimated, which served as one of the supporting reasons for the shutdown decision.

Last week, BAI head Choe Jae-hyeong told lawmakers that officials from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power had “severely resisted” the audit and caused delays by destroying evidence and bearing false testimony.

The disruptions led the BAI to submit the final report nearly eight months later than the original deadline of Feb. 29, he said.

Announcing the audit result Tuesday, the BAI decided not to refer the case to law enforcement or demand disciplinary actions against officials involved. It will provide the information to the investigative authorities if needed, it said.

Rep. Joo criticized the BAI’s inaction, saying officials should be held responsible for the violation of related laws.

President Moon Jae-in’s remark in 2018 to his aides asking when Wolsong-1 will come to a stop kicked off the process of the “unlawful” and “unwarranted” closure of the nuclear reactor, Joo insisted.

Moon, since his presidential campaign, has vowed a U-turn away from fossil fuel and nuclear energy sources, vowing to phase out over 20 nuclear power plants currently in operation and stop construction of new ones.

“The fact that government officials, including former Industry Minister Paik Un-gyu, destroyed 444 related documents on the eve of the inspection symbolizes that the closure was already a wrong decision,” Rep. Joo said.

He also questioned the authenticity of the BAI audit, saying three of the six auditors on the Wolsong-1 case appear to be government-friendly. He warned that the president himself should be held responsible, if found to have played a role in the flawed process.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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