South Korea to restart one of two troubled reactors this week

SEOUL Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:12am GMT

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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will restart one of two nuclear reactors this week after being shut for nearly two months to replace parts which were found to have forged documents, easing power supply concerns as winter bites, the nuclear regulator and operator said.

The State-run Nuclear Safety & Security Commission said in a statement on Monday that it had approved the restart of a 1,000-megawatt (MW) reactor in Yeonggwang county, 300 km (186 miles) southwest of the capital Seoul.

A spokesman at Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, state-run Korea Electric Power Corp's subsidiary that runs the country's nuclear industry, said the reactor is expected to fully supply power within this week.

South Korea's nuclear sector has been involved in a series of minor incidents and a scandal over forged certificates for parts used in what the government insists are non-essential operations - events that led to the closure of two reactors.

The commission has not yet decided when to approve the restart of the second reactor and is still discussing the issue with local residents, its officials said.

The commission has been investigating all 23 reactors to see if they were supplied with parts with fake quality documents and whether there are any safety concerns.

South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, depends heavily on oil and gas imports but its nuclear reactors supply a third of its power.

Of the 23 reactors, four with a combined 3,680 MW power supply capacity remain closed, according to industry data.

Public support for nuclear power remains strong in South Korea despite last year's Fukushima disaster in Japan last year, and Seoul plans to have added another 11 reactors by 2024.

The government has been campaigning nationwide to save energy and avoid power blackouts in the colder than usual winter.

(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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