"We will try to avoid concluding the eternal halt of the construction of the Shin Kori Nuclear Power Plants No. 5 and No. 6, which was temporarily suspended,” said Lee Kwan-seop, president of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) on July 17.
KHNP made a decision on the suspension of the construction during the public debate on Shin Kori 5 and 6 at the board of directors meeting on July 14 but made clear that the cannot unconditionally cast a vote for the government's nuclear phase-out policy.
As the president of KHNP who oversees the construction and maintenance of nuclear power plants in Korea publicly announced this position, a huge uproar is expected to take place about the process of implementing the government's nuclear phase-out policy in the future.
"If 1.6 trillion won was invested in Shin Kori 5 and 6 and their construction is canceled, there will be a legal problem about compensating for damage," president Lee said in a meeting with reporters in Sejong City. "We will fully explain to the people that nuclear power is safe during the public debate period."
The public debate committee which will be launched soon will design and fairly manage the process of public debates for three months. The final judgment will be made by a citizen jury.
Lee said that it will be desirable to discuss the decision on the permanent suspension of Shin Kori 5 and 6 Units by discussing them at the public debate committee rather than at KHNP's board of directors. He added, "In addition, I think it should be included in the public discussion how to compensate contractors and whether or not to decide to permanently stop the construction by using a new legal system."
However, it is pointed out that this remark by president Lee can leave an impression that KHNP intends to shirk its responsibility for the shutdown of the nuclear power plant construction. "We decided to have public debates based on the decision of the cabinet, and resolved to suspend the construction as it was said that the suspension of the construction was needed for fair public debates," president Lee added, "KHNP is not in charge of who will take responsibility."
With respect to damages caused by the suspension of the construction work, “It is estimated that if the construction is stopped for three months, it will cause damage of 100 billion won. "We will make compensation as much as possible to prevent contractors from incurring such losses."
As KHNP voiced a strong opposition to the permanent suspension of Shin Kori 5 and 6, it is forecast that it will be inevitable for the government to revise related acts in order to implement the permanent suspension in the future. In fact, Taiwan, which shut down nuclear power plants under construction in their early stages, revised the Electricity Business Act, and Germany, which declared its nuclear phase-out, amended the Atomic Energy Act and pursued related procedures.
In addition, as the government can resolve the compensation problem with budgets by revising law, a new legal system is urgently needed for the government to fully implement policies. "Although it is right that important decisions such as permanent suspension are made by KEPCO's board of directors, things can become different if the government establishes special law or revises law to overcome existing procedures or systems," said an official of the nuclear power industry.