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 45.


    Yes it's a case of weighing risks. Can a nuclear accident happen in the uk. If there's potential yes answer to that question, you run a very, very high risk indeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    #40 Would it be worth concreteing over the entire British Isles in order to get to that 80%?

    Again it's a case of weighing the risks, reactors built these days are the sort that could be abandoned and shut down as various processes failed. Nuclear is already the safest form of power generation (4 times safer than wind, the next safest)

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    The ugly head of renewables raises it's head again. Renewables are a con; the 'green' political lobbyists are the same people who stand to profit hugely from renewables - most of these lobbyists are involved in the renewable energy industry, which is how they afford the publicity.

    Modern nuclear is safe, clean and not unsightly, and the byproducts could actually be used - the tech is in place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Nuclear power uses a non renewable fuel, uranium. Therecare limited supplies of uranium, once they have gone that's it. Once oil, gas and coal reserves have gone, for nuclear to replace the current energy demands we need in excess of 5,500 new reactors globally. Uranium supplies will deplete in 2 decades as a result. Nuclear = stop gap at most, not a permanent solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Now, how to convince North Korea?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    @ arcid

    80% is pretty good, no? And 'I wouldn't worry about a modern one' sounds like some pretty famous last words :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Makes you wonder why the BBC has asked for comments on this story
    Nuclear = Nasty
    Green =Good
    But green energy is not so green is not so cheap and it isnt there when you want it.
    Nuclear energy on the other hand is.
    Only a little hiccup in the power supply in Korea which will be sorted ASAP but because it is "Nuclear" power it is world news. It is not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    It's surely possible to build new nuclear power stations safer than those in the past, incorporating all the lessons of previous nuclear disasters.
    To avoid a 747 being deliberately flown into one they could be put underground using a 'cut& cover' technique.
    A typical nuclear station produces as much energy as 10,000 wind turbines, so its worth the investment to save our landscape.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Any better ideas??
    Fukushima was old and suffered a triple whammy of bad luck. It won't happen here, because any reactors will be new if we want more than 1 left, and we are not susceptible to violent earthquakes or tsunamis on that level. "Why not implement renewables properly?" - If they were that good, they'dve done it by now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Every installed MW of random, intermittent windpower guarantees the need for an equivalent MW of certain, reliable firm generation from nuclear or fossil power plants. Wind only generates an average of 30% throughout the year & it then destabilises the balance in supply & demand by over, then under, supply to the system. This uncertainty cost us £300m/year extra.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    #31 The studies I've seen would put the maximum we could get with renewables at 80% of what the UK needs, and that includes industrialising everywhere we aren't actively growing crops or living.

    In the end it is all about weighing the risks, and given Fukushima needed a disaster that wiped civilisation for several miles around it off the map to be in danger I wouldn't worry about a modern one

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Nuclear certified replacement parts are expensive, consumer or industrial grade are not. A big difference is testing, burn-in, reliability, fail safe design, and other factors, Because many nuclear parts are identical in form, fit, and function with commercial equivalents, except for cost, it looks like fingers have been in the Kimchi jar for nine years! rather than some unfortunate oversight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Nuclear is the future, low risk blah blah - all very well on paper and in board rooms but the reality seems far less palatable. Nuclear is the future disaster waiting to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Geothermal is actually very costly and cannot be done here anyway. No form of energy is without flaws, but what we need is to become almost self sufficient in terms of energy. Wind and solar on houses, with a nuclear and gas backup and for industry.
    I really don't think electric cars are the way forward. We need an alternative, badly, but they have far too many flaws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    @ acrid

    That maybe although it's a very expensive process, and doesn't negate the inherent risk in having a plant in the first place. If another Fukushima is possible - even vaguely, then why not implement renewables properly? Or do you look at Fukushima, shrug your shoulders and go "well dang, that was a shame wasn't it? But it won't happen in the uk...."

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    "9.Daniel Bunbury
    ......One may claim the risk is small, but the consequences are huge. And we have plenty of much safer alternatives."

    Surely if the safer alternatives were genuinely viable, we would be using them instead of having this debate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I notice that the parts concerned include items like fuses, fans and switches that are OK, just not nuclear certified.

    It might make better sense for competent engineers to evaluate whether these items will always fail safe or not. All parts that, if they fail, introduce no danger can be replaced over a period of months or years with only "fail dangerous" parts requiring instant replacement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Nuclear is the best “bang for buck”, and having them in UK is no different to having them in France(for the sake of problems)and France is building more, currently UK import a LOT of power from France, do you want the UK to be at the mercy of them on pricing? What happens when we start plugging in our car onto an existing grid that can’t keep up with current supply already?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    #21 Tidal power is actually a fairly good (although intermittant) power source, fish and other marine life don't seem to have much trouble navigating past them (The test one in Strangford lough hasn't had an adverse effect on wildlife). It's probably the second best renewable power source after geothermal. Not ideal but there are a range of applications for it

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Scientists are looking into ways waste can be dealt with, and within 20-30 years they'll probably have come up with something. I agree, things like solar panels and windmills on houses should be put in place, but industry would need more and a backup of nuclear and gas would be needed. The Toyota plant near Derby has acres of renewables, but can only provide 5% of what they need.


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