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Third-generation Nuclear Reactors Put into Operation in South Korea
Proof of Technological Excellence
Third-generation Nuclear Reactors Put into Operation in South Korea
  • By Jung Min-hee
  • December 9, 2019, 08:38
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Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Sung Yun-mo (seventh from the left) press the button with other officials to start the operation of the Shin-Kori 3 and 4 nuclear power plants at a completion ceremony on Dec. 6.

The completion ceremony for the third and fourth units of the Shin-Kori Nuclear Power Plant was held on Dec. 6. The third-generation nuclear power plants have been put into commercial operation ahead of those of the United States and Europe to prove the excellence of South Korea’s nuclear power generation technology. The operation is very meaningful in that South Korea’s nuclear power industry is currently losing steam due to the South Korean government’s nuclear phase-out policy.

During the ceremony in Ulju County, Ulsan, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) stressed that the power plants are APR-1400 advanced pressurized water nuclear reactors. Each of the APR-1400 reactors, which are follow-ups to OPR-1000 Korean standard nuclear power plants, has a power generation capacity of 1,400 MW, 40 percent larger than that of an OPR-1000 reactor. In addition, the design life of the former is 60 years whereas that of the latter is four decades.

According to KHNP, the seismic performance of the APR-1400 reactors is up to 600 percent of the previous model and advanced technologies such as digital instrumentation and control are used in the reactors. Shin-Hanul Units 1 and 2 and Shin-Kori Units 5 and 6, which are currently under construction, are APR-1400 as well. At present, the United States and France are building AP-1000 and EPR as third-generation nuclear power plants, respectively. South Korea’s Shin-Kori Unit 3 as another third-generation nuclear power plant was already put into commercial operation in as early as December 2016. The construction in the United States and France is currently being delayed due to poor construction and design-related problems.

The APR-1400 obtained its design certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of the United States in August this year. The certification is currently the only NRC design certification when it comes to nuclear power plants developed by countries other than the United States.

The Barakah nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates, which has been built by South Korea since 2012, is based on the third and fourth units. The operation of the two units is expected to accelerate South Korea’s nuclear power plant construction abroad, particularly in the Middle East. “Today’s ceremony means sustainable growth and export opportunities for the South Korean nuclear power industry including local equipment suppliers,” KHNP explained. The annual power output of the two units is 20.8 billion kwh, equivalent to 3.7 percent of South Korea’s total power output for last year.

The two units are expected to put a brake on the shrinkage of the industry. Its sales, which soared from 6,523.5 billion won to 27,451.3 billion won from 1997 to 2016, fell to 23,885.5 billion won in 2017, the first year of the nuclear phase-out policy. That year, the sales fell for the first time since records began in 1997 with major nuclear power plant construction projects canceled.

Shin-Hanul Units 1 and 2 and Shin-Kori Units 5 and 6 are scheduled to be completed in 2021 and 2014, respectively. The construction of Shin-Hanul Units 3 and 4 has been suspended. Although the South Korean government opted for technology export and decommissioning instead of power plant construction, its policy direction has been criticized in that the global nuclear power plant construction market amounts to hundreds of trillions of won whereas the global decommissioning market stands at tens of trillions of won.