January 6, 2015 / 9:17 AM / 3 years ago

South Korea's Wolsong No.1 reactor insecure against natural disasters - private group

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s second-oldest nuclear reactor, whose operator wants to run it till 2022, is not safe enough, a private advisory group which reviewed natural disaster simulation tests by the operator, was quoted in a report released by the nuclear watchdog on Tuesday.

Yet, the Korea Institute for Nuclear Safety, which also reviewed the test simulating disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami on Wolsong No.1, said in the report that the more than 30-year-old reactor was safe enough to continue to operate.

The nuclear regulatory expert organisation, in a separate report last year, supported the operation of Wolsong No.1, which is located in the city of Gyeongju, over 300 km southeast of Seoul.

South Korea’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, will decide the fate of the 679-megawatt heavy water reactor based upon the recommendations of the 19-member private group of residents, experts and civic group officials, and the nuclear regulatory expert group.

The stress test was designed for old reactors whose life span is intended to be increased as concerns have mounted since the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 and a domestic scandal in 2012 over the supply of reactor parts with fake certificates.

Wolsong No.1, which started operating in 1983, has been shut for tests since late 2012 as Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd, a part of state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp, had applied to extend its 30-year life span.

South Korea runs a total of 23 nuclear reactors which supply a third of its electricity.

Seoul had earlier extended the 30-year life span of its oldest reactor Kori No.1 by 10 years to 2017. The private group noted in Tuesday’s report that the operator was now preparing to extend it beyond 2017.

A spokesman at Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power said nothing had been officially decided on Kori No.1’s extension.

Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Prateek Chatterjee

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