The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission’s decision to permanently suspend Unit 1 of Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant on Dec. 24 is backfiring politically. The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the labor union of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) are moving to take a legal action against the commission and its members.
“I will request the prosecution to investigate the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission and its members for abusing their authority and breaching trust,” said lawmaker Choi Yeon-hye, leader of the LDP’s Special Committee against Nuclear Phase-Out Policies, on Dec. 26. Choi added that she will file a request for a provisional order with the court to halt the commission’s decision.
The labor union of KHNP is also furious. The union is also moving to apply for a provisional court order to halt the commission’s decision.
Wolseong Unit 1, which started its commercial operation in April 1983, was the first pressurized heavy water reactor in Korea. After the end of its 30-year design life, it was allowed to operate for an additional 10 years until 2022. But last June, KHNP decided to close it down early, citing a lack of economic feasibility, and then applied for an approval of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission in February of this year.
But since then, an allegation has surfaced that KHNP deliberately reduced the economic feasibility of Wolsong Unit 1. The Board of Audit and Inspection began to prove the case in September. Some politicians and the KHNP labor union point out that that it was nonsensical that the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission made a decision to permanently shut down the nuclear reactor before the BAI comes up with probe results.
A backlash came from academia as well. The Professors Council for the Rationalization of Energy Policies, which is critical of the government's nuclear phase-out policy, put out a statement on Dec. 25 that the government should scratch off its original decision and put the nuclear reactor in operation again. The council is made up of 225 professors from 60 universities nationwide. “It is quite absurd and unacceptable for the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission to permanently halt the nuclear reactor while the BAI was in the process of investigating the case,” the statement said. “The act overthrew the BAI’s authority and seriously violated its legitimate work.”