South Korea shuts nuclear reactors over unapproved parts


The BBC's Lucy Williamson said both reactors would remain closed until parts had been replaced

South Korea has shut down two nuclear reactors after it was revealed that some parts used had not been properly vetted, an official says.

Knowledge Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo said these were "non-core" parts and were not a safety threat.

They included fuses, cooling fans and power switches that did not have the required nuclear industry certificates.

The shutdown means there could be "unprecedented" power shortages in the next few months, Mr Hong said.

The more than 5,000 parts could be used in other industries but needed international certification for nuclear power plant usage, he said.

Almost all the parts were used at the Yeonggwang Nuclear Power Plant, in the south-west, where the two reactors were shut down.

"Comprehensive safety check-ups are necessary at these two reactors where the uncertified parts were used extensively," the minister said.

"It's inevitable that we will experience unprecedented power shortage during the coming winter with the two reactors shut."

He said the parts, worth 820m won ($750,000, £467,800), had been sourced from eight suppliers since 2003.

South Korea's 23 nuclear reactors, which supply 35% of the country's electricity, have experienced a series of malfunctions over the past few months.

While none have posed a public risk, opposition to the government's bid to vastly expand its nuclear industry has been growing, says the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Seoul.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    This is not a nuclear issue per se. This is a process issue of certification and an administration error.

    However, as we can see from this HYS, it hasn't stopped the 'Knit Your Own Sandals Brigade' recycling the same old tired propoganda about how all nuclear powerstations are 'bombs waiting to go off' and other such nonsense.

    Give me a continent-sized break!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Hey bob, if every roof had solar panels and mini windmil, you would see what our needs are. Thought needs to go into construction that is obvious, but with the next few years looking at more freak weather (take last 2yrs). Spent fuel has 1 million year shelf life, not fair to rack this up for others to worry about. How needed are our electricals?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I'll be really interested to see how South Korea comes out of this. They are a pretty slick operation and they work hard. I suspect they'll fall back on gas and coal to fill the gap whilst dramatically reducing their demand and rapidly deploying wind , tidal and solar. Go SK this year will be tough but you'll come out stronger. Rest of world take note.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    #19 Just a point of clarification. Much of what is calssed as nuclear waste is perfectly usable, but isn't used for political reasons. What is left afterwards is not particularly radioactive and has a short half life. (My understanding is that properly prepared waste in Canada is less radioactive than the granite it's buried in after 5 years)

    Just think it's important to differ politics and tech

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Ok, so you recommend:
    -Solar: Welcome to Britain, not exactly the Costa del Sol or the South of France, so what do we do when it's cloudy. I agree, most houses should have it, but then a backup is still required.
    -Wind: you need hundreds of thousands of turbines to cope with demand, they look awful and cause "dead birds" that you mention.
    -Wave: What about the fish in the sea?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    `Unprecedented power shortages´ could also be the fate of Europe. Manufacturing industry in Germany (I know, I live here) is getting very nervous about `green´ energy sources. It needs a lot of cheap, reliable electricity to be able to function efficiently and the prospect on that front is not looking too good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    We live in an age of calculated risk. Sure. But that much risk? Plus the fact that when decommissioned, the radioactive material which can take hundreds of years to become in the clear is shovelled into our earth? Or then massively expensively shot into space? And people say that alternatives such as renewables are irresponsible - another alternative that no one seems to be mentioning-using less?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Britain is 'odd man out'
    Japan and Germany have closed many plants
    It only takes one accident to wipe this country out and the waste from previous nuclear work has not been made safe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Nothing happening at home then??

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Whilst the non compliant "parts" are "non core", (ie not within the reactor vessel or thermal circuit), they clearly present a potential risk to the operation of the plant otherwise they would (a) not need nuclear certification & (b) would not require the reactor to shut down. However this is not a nuclear issue or problem; it is one of sloppy standards of procurement & worringly - verification.

  • Comment number 15.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    By far the worst thing we as humans have made. Dead birds, dolphins and whales? Harmless? You need to read the news globally to see the issues. Put 1 in the middle of london see how you like it.
    Science will destroy us all. Now with more storms ahead we need to think of other options like solar and wind and wave. Wake up people!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Your "safer alternatives" wouldn't be renewables by any chance? No form of renewable energy could consistently provide a large, steady supply of energy. I think solar panels should be compulsary on most or all new houses, but that would still require a backup of nuclear or gas. Remember, this is Britain, not the South of France, so solar wouldn't work all the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Nuclear power stations can also be beautiful. Sizewell for example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Governments have a responsibility to its citizens and have to weigh up risks such as this. Were they to use uncertified parts and something go wrong they leave themselves open to being sued or worse. They did the right thing, anything else is irresponsible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Nuclear is the safest and cleanest viable method for large-scale energy generation.

    Per the article, safety is so important that they're willing to shut off reactors & face power shortages for precautionary work. That's how the nuclear industry is.

    Modern nuclear plants have so many safety systems that a major accident is all but impossible. Sadly, the same can't be said for cold war relics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Not a bomb waiting to go off, but certainly a disaster waiting to happen. Most reactors couldn't withstand a 747 plowing into them, and none can withstand industrial sabotage (e.g. stuxnet). These things ruin large areas for a hundred years or more. One may claim the risk is small, but the consequences are huge. And we have plenty of much safer alternatives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.


  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Why is that so? In general, design and procedures in emergencies have improved since Chernobyl, which in 1986 was an old reactor anyway. Fukushima, admittedly, couldn't withstand a tsunami, but in the UK at least, that shouldn't be a problem anyway. If we do not build more nuclear plants, we will suffer shortages, as renewables are not up to the job of powering a nation alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    @3 woody
    Reactors are not a bomb waiting to go off. Fukushima had every possible calamity happen to it. (1) a 40 year old design incapable of natural convective cooling when all power was lost, unlike modern reactors. (2) a massive earthquake, (3) a gigantic tsunami. You may have noted the bomb did not go off.


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