Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) held a board meeting on November 16 and decided to stop the construction of the third and fourth units of the Shin Hanul Nuclear Power Plant and the first and second units of the Cheonji Nuclear Power Plant. Controversies are likely to continue with hundreds of billions of won already invested in the construction projects and the government having yet to prepare a plan for compensation.
Those in favor of the construction of the nuclear power plants are claiming that nuclear power plants are safe tools for power generation as seen in the case of those that endured the magnitude 5.4 earthquake in Pohang on November 15. Those opposed to the construction are claiming that South Korea is not an earthquake-free zone and, as such, no more nuclear power plant should be allowed.
The Joint Action for a Nuclear Free Society, which is a local environmental group, held a press conference in Seoul on November 16. “Both the earthquake in Gyeongju last year and the recent earthquake in Pohang occurred in the Yangsan fault zone in the southeastern region of the Korean Peninsula and the latter’s epicenter was shallower and the latter caused more damage although the former had a larger magnitude,” it said, adding, “At present, a total of 18 nuclear power plants are in operation and five are under construction in the southeastern region of the peninsula including Gyeongju, Busan, and Ulsan, where big earthquakes have occurred one after another, and the operation of the power plants should be stopped and safety measures should be prepared immediately.”
Meanwhile, professor Jung Yong-hoon at the Department of Nuclear & Quantum Engineering of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) said that nuclear power plants in South Korea are well prepared for earthquakes with a magnitude of up to 7.0. 24 nuclear power plants in total are currently in operation in South Korea and each of them is resistant to an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5. Last month, the South Korean government announced that it would raise the level to 7.0 by June next year.
In the meantime, KHNP said at the board meeting that the first unit of the Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant is going to be shut down earlier than scheduled in accordance with a determination made in a recent Cabinet meeting but the shutdown requires an approval from the Nuclear Safety & Security Commission and an exact date of the shutdown cannot be pinpointed as litigation is ongoing on a change in the operation of the power plant.